Mercedes, as if it needed further confirmation, have provided reassurance that Sir Lewis Hamilton will be on the grid for the start of the 2022 season following his heartbreak last year.
The seven-time world champion looked well on course for his eighth up until the closing stages of the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, but Williams’ Nicholas Latifi collided with the barrier and brought out the Safety Car.
His title rival, Max Verstappen, took the opportunity to bolt on fresh tyres, but Mercedes aired on the side of caution with so few laps remaining and kept the 37-year-old on track on older rubber.
Subsequently, five lapped runners sat between the leaders and race director Michael Masi made the initial call to prohibit any lapped drivers from getting their lap back.
However, after intense negotiations with Red Bull, the Australian elected to allow the aforementioned five to go through past the Safety Car, and Verstappen got past the Mercedes driver on the very last lap of the race to claim his first-ever Formula 1 world championship.
Hamilton said on the radio during the infamous final tour that the race had been “manipulated” by race control, and his “we’ll see about next year” comment, coupled with his near two-month long absence from social media, sparked up rumours that he was considering leaving the sport.
Former Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone was convinced that the 103-time race winner was set to head for the exit after losing the title in such a devastating and controversial manner.
“I don’t think he’s coming back. His disappointment is too great,” he previously said.
“And you can understand that in a way. Now it would be time, with also seven World Championship titles like Michael Schumacher, to tackle his dream of becoming a fashion entrepreneur.”
However, Hamilton returned to social media last week with a picture of him smiling, captioned: “I’ve been gone. Now I’m back.”
His Mercedes team then tweeted “Welcome back, Lewis Hamilton,” with a collage of supportive messages sent by big names such as Serena Williams and Pele.
The 37-year-old now looks set to partner George Russell at the Silver Arrows this year, with the 23-year-old moving up from Williams to replace the departing Valtteri Bottas.
The eight-time constructors’ champions are to reveal their new car on 18 February, and they have indicated that the two Britons will both be at the factory ahead of the launch.
“A livestream featuring Toto, Lewis, George and the first in-person look at the Mercedes-AMG F1 W13 E Performance will be accessible via the team’s YouTube, Twitter and Facebook channels,” the team said in a statement.
This now seemingly puts to bed the circulating rumours that the seven-time champion is considering leaving the pinnacle of motorsport, and he looks all set to compete for number eight in 2022.
Furthermore, it will provide an opportunity for Hamilton to publicly announce his decision to fans and rival teams alike.