Sir Lewis Hamilton’s retirement from Formula 1 could be imminent, following the Brit cruelly losing out on his eighth world title in 2021.
That’s according to F1 legend Alain Prost, who has warned that Hamilton “could be finished” after the heartbreak he suffered at the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Hamilton and his Mercedes team were aggrieved when race director Michael Masi’s late call under the Safety Car aided Max Verstappen’s maiden championship success.
Masi allowed only five lapped cars through ahead of the Safety Car, leaving the lapped runners behind Verstappen in their place to save time as the race looked to be running out of laps to reach a green flag conclusion.
As a result, the Dutchman, on fresh tyres, managed to clear the Briton on the final lap of the 2021 season to snatch the title from his rival.
Mercedes protested the result and lodged an intention to appeal when this was denied.
They later withdrew this, but there is now an active petition to overturn the result and award the 37-year-old the title.
Prost has been involved in his fair share of controversial title-deciders, colliding with Ayrton Senna in both 1989 and 1990.
The pair were left stranded on track after contact into the final chicane at the Japanese Grand Prix in the former of those years, with Senna ultimately winning the race.
However, the Brazilian was disqualified for being helped back on to the track by marshals, handing his McLaren team-mate his third championship.
Senna then unceremoniously wiped the then-Ferrari driver out a year later at Turn 1 in Suzuka to take the championship.
There have been incrementally more whispers in the paddock that Hamilton will walk away from F1 following his own heartbreak, with former Supremo Bernie Ecclestone hinting that he is likely headed for the door.
While Prost would like to see Hamilton return in 2022, he admits that it may be too bitter a pill for him to swallow.
“It’s difficult to put yourself in his shoes. He surely has as many reasons to stop as to continue,” the four-time world champion said in an interview with Le Journal du Dimanche.
“He’s taken a big blow to the head and he could be finished, but it would be really sad if he wasn’t here this season.”
The regulations will change this year, with the cars now designed very differently from last season.
Aerodynamic parts have been reduced in a bid to make it easier from cars to follow, and Prost believes this new challenge could be enough to convince Hamilton to put off his retirement.
“I want to stay optimistic because there’s this eighth title to go and this new technical regulation, with maybe three teams on point and four or five drivers vying for the title.
“It’s a challenge that Hamilton might want to take on,” added the Frenchman.
Though Hamilton missed out on his landmark eighth championship last year, his Mercedes team were able to seal their record-eighth consecutive Constructors’ Championship crown.
Should the Briton return, he will be partnered by George Russell, who was signed from Williams to replace Valtteri Bottas.
The Finn has joined Alfa Romeo alongside Chinese rookie Guanyu Zhou to form their all-new 2022 driver line-up.