Former Formula 1 driver Perry McCarthy has said he cannot rule out the possibility of Sir Lewis Hamilton retiring following the contentious end to the 2021 season.
Max Verstappen beat his rival to the championship in the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix after race director Michael Masi allowed a limited number of lapped runners past the late Safety Car as time constraints threatened to prevent any further green flag running.
The Dutchman had bolted on a fresh set of tyres during the Safety Car period, and was then able to overtake Hamilton on the final lap of the race to seal the title.
An enraged Mercedes protested the end of the race in the stewards’ room, and upon seeing this denied opted to lodge an intention to appeal.
The Silver Arrows rescinded this on the morning of the FIA Prize-Giving Gala, before reports broke that they had agreed a deal to drop it on the condition that Masi was removed from his position.
Mercedes have, however, denied striking a deal with the FIA for Masi’s removal.
Immediately after the race, Hamilton said “we’ll see about next year,” prompting queries from the likes of Mark Webber and Bernie Ecclestone as to whether the Briton is planning a future away from the pinnacle of motorsport.
His silence on social media in recent weeks has only added fuel to these suggestions.
McCarthy says that it takes an almost unfathomable amount of work and dedication to be successful in Formula 1, and therefore admits there is a chance Hamilton may decide to walk away.
“It’s possible,” he told Formula1News.co.uk.
“You know, I was really considering that after the race to see his body language and what many people don’t realise is that to get to Formula 1, takes a lot of effort, a lot of talent.
“To win a race in Formula 1 takes an awful lot.
“To win a world championship, what that takes mentally, that sustained drive and living under that pressure, day in day out to win a world championship is absolutely incredible.
“Then what you’ve got with Lewis is that to have won so many championships, there are so many people out there who just say ‘oh well he’s got the best car plug him in and there you go and he’s up against [Valtteri] Bottas who’s no good, So he’s got it all covered.’
“I don’t subscribe to any of that. Leading a team being on the top of your game, week in week out year in year out is absolutely incredible, to the level of success that Lewis has enjoyed on a continuous basis is testament to his team, obviously, but to him as well.”
The former Andrea Moda driver also affirms that Hamilton’s battle with Verstappen last year will have taken a lot out of him.
“But of course, then the other side of the fence, you’ve got Max coming in, who’s not scared of anybody. I mean, that is just brilliant about Max and he’s just so hungry; the new pretender that he tries to go for the world championship. And again, [he is] totally, totally focused.
“So these things are the fascinating backstory.”
The 60-year-old reckons that the late and controversial end to the race at the Yas Marina Circuit may well have left the seven-time champion feeling “empty.”
“That level of work and that level of expectation, and then in his view, probably to have it snatched away in the manner it was, I’m sure I’d be right in assuming that would leave him feeling absolutely empty, and just really wondering ‘has he got it now?’ That passion to go back in for another pummelling for another fight to that to that degree,” he explained.
“Because it may be that fire that rages – maybe there’s been a big jug of water poured over from that decision.
“Maybe he’ll get it back but that was my thought.”
McCarthy then cited Nico Rosberg, who retired in 2016 in shocking fashion having claimed his one and only world championship that year.
The five-time Le Mans 24-hour participant put Rosberg’s departure down to draining himself mentally in what were three brutal seasons battling Hamilton for the title at Mercedes.
“And I was going to use Nico as an example, to turn around and say, you know, there were some areas where Nico was a little bit fortunate that particular year and it still took absolutely everything he had to beat Lewis,” he added.
“And at the end of year, he’s turned around and thought, ‘I don’t really want to be living like that again.’
“You know, that was it, ‘I’ve won the world championship’, I talked to a couple other drivers about this as well.
“And if ever I’d been lucky enough, or maybe good enough, or whatever, to have won the world championship, I wonder if I would have stayed around afterwards, or just think ‘you know what, [I’ve] done the job. See you later.’
“It just takes so much [out of] these guys and that’s where that’s where I have such admiration for them.”
Should Hamilton return in 2022, he will be partnered by George Russell, who has signed from Williams to replace Valtteri Bottas.
The Finn has headed to Alfa Romeo following five seasons at the Silver Arrows as Hamilton’s team-mate.
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