Sir Lewis Hamilton maintains that retirement never crossed his mind following his controversial championship defeat to Max Verstappen in 2021.
The Briton looked set to cruise to his record eighth world championship while comfortably leading Verstappen late on in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix before a crash for Williams’ Nicholas Latifi turned the race on its head.
The Dutchman took the opportunity to pit, leaving five lapped cars between himself and his title rival, and race director Michael Masi initially ruled that none of the lapped runners would be permitted to get their lap back.
However, after some curious radio exchanges between the Australian and Red Bull, he decided to only allow the five between the protagonists go through ahead of the final lap, aware that time constraints threatened to see the title race fizzle out under yellow flag conditions.
The 24-year-old would then pass the Mercedes driver on the very last lap to claim a controversial maiden title and, while Hamilton exclaimed during the final lap that the race had been “manipulated,” he congratulated his rival in a tremendous show of grace after such a cruel blow.
He then told 2009 world champion Jenson Button “we’ll see about next year” in a post-race interview, before taking an extended break from social media.
It led many to believe that he was headed for the door, but he returned in early February and affirmed during the presentation of the W13 last week that he did not consider walking away from the pinnacle of motorsport.
“I never ever said I was going to stop,” he stated.
“It was obviously a difficult time for me and it was a time where I really needed to take a step back, focus on being present so I had my family all around me and creating great moments.”
The 37-year-old praised the positivity that new team-mate George Russell has brought to the team, and is looking forward to what is anticipated to be a fantastic season under the new technical regulations.
“Eventually, I got to a point where I decided I’m going to be attacking again coming into another season and working with Toto [Wolff, Mercedes team principal] and George,” he added.
“It is exciting seeing George come in and bring his energy. I can already feel that throughout the team and I think it’s going to be an exciting season.”
He later insisted that he has no issues with Verstappen, and said that the new world champion merely took advantage of the situation in front him as any driver would.
Hamilton and Russell are currently in Barcelona with Mercedes taking part in the first pre-season test of 2022.