Former Formula 1 driver Karun Chandhok is not entirely convinced by the idea that Sir Lewis Hamilton will retire after his heart-breaking championship defeat in 2021, but admits that the FIA need to provide him with certain reassurances.
Mercedes were left fuming when a controversial Safety Car restart at the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in December allowed Max Verstappen to pass the Briton for the championship.
Despite Hamilton’s congratulations to his rival in the immediate aftermath of a chaotic ending, he has refrained from interacting with the outside world ever since the contentious finish, with the exception of him announcing a school initiative.
The eight-time constructors’ champions dropped an appeal into the final championship standings, and later reportedly denied that this was contingent of the sacking of race director Michael Masi.
The FIA are actively carrying out an investigation into why Masi made two contradictory decisions within minutes of each other in the build up to Verstappen’s last-gasp win.
Chandhok’s Sky F1 colleagues Martin Brundle, Damon Hill and Anthony Davidson have all suggested that the Briton will return to the track this year and, with less than a month to go until the first “shakedown” in Barcelona, the Indian agrees.
“My personal instinct is he will come back,” he told the Express Sport.
The 37-year-old won three of the final four races of the season in Brazil, Qatar and Saudi Arabia despite starting the race in Sao Paulo 10th on the grid.
Chandhok believes that the Briton’s imperious performances in the latter stages of 2021 epitomised the brilliance he still has in his locker.
“I think he showed in the last four races of last season his hunger to win and his inherent speed has not dimmed at all,” he added.
“What he did in those last four races…the quality of driving in those last four races was exceptional. It was just as good as anything from Lewis in the last 14 years.”
While the 38-year-old is confident that Hamilton will be racing this year, he concedes that the FIA must make tangible changes to ensure that the events at the Yas Marina Circuit are not repeated.
“As long as he can come back in the right frame of mind [he will return],” he stated.
“As long as the FIA can demonstrate to him they have made changes and put mechanisms in place to make the sport a fairer sport for what Lewis perceives to be an injustice towards him, he will come back.”
The 103-time race winner is set to be partnered by George Russell in the upcoming season after his compatriot was signed from Williams to replace the departing Valtteri Bottas.
The Finn has headed to Alfa Romeo to be partnered by F1 rookie Guanyu Zhou.
The FIA will conclude their investigation into the closing events at the Yas Marina Circuit on 18 March, just two days before the season-opener in Bahrain.