Dr Helmut Marko believes that Sir Lewis Hamilton had a significant role to play in the removal of Michael Masi as race director, adding that he was never going to retire from the sport despite being silent on social media.
Hamilton was cruelly denied his record eighth world championship at the end of 2021 after a controversial Safety Car restart by Masi led to a final lap overtake from Max Verstappen to snatch his maiden crown at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The Briton congratulated the 24-year-old immediately after the race in a tremendous show of magnanimity, before saying “we’ll see about next year,” leaving question marks over his future.
A lengthy sabbatical from social media strengthened rumours of his departure, but Dr Marko maintains that, if he really was considering his options, Mercedes would have been scrambling for alternative options.
“There were clear indications that Hamilton would not stop because there was no movement in the driver market,” he told RTL.
“If Hamilton had informed Mercedes that he would take a step back, they would have started looking for a replacement en masse. However, that was not the case, not noticeable.”
The Austrian believes that the 37-year-old was applying pressure on the FIA to make structural changes that involved the removal of Masi, and he reckons this is unfair.
“By his silence, he only wanted to show his dissatisfaction with the situation and the decisions. Part of that behaviour subsequently also led to Masi being removed from his role,” he added.
“I don’t think it’s right. You have to look at his performances over the years. If Masi had everything they are going to enter now at his disposal, it would have been easier for him to decide, a video referee and an advisor by his side.
“Michael is now being sacrificed for that.”
Masi has been replaced by a combination of Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas, who will receive support from former deputy race director Herbie Blash and a virtual control room.
Hamilton admits that he was assessing his options over the winter break, but ultimately saw no reason why he should leave without having another go at his eighth championship.
“Naturally, I think at the end of any season, probably for those that are around my age, of course you’re thinking about the future,” he explained.
“You’re thinking about, what are the next steps? What are the right steps for you to take, and what’s right for you in terms of overall happiness?
“So I always evaluate all my options. I love being a part of a team. I love working with – and I’ve said it so many times – everyone towards a common goal.
“And I feel at my best, so why do I need to leave?”
Hamilton has been joined by George Russell this year after Valtteri Bottas headed to Alfa Romeo at the end of 2021.