‘Out of control’ Lewis Hamilton accused of attention-seeking

Sir Lewis Hamilton disappeared from the public eye after he was cruelly denied his eighth world championship last year.

Former racing driver Robert Doornbos believes that Sir Lewis Hamilton was trying to attract attention to himself with his near two-month absence from social media, and Mercedes do not have him “under control.”

Hamilton missed out on his record eighth world championship in 2021 after a controversial Safety Car restart from race director Michael Masi paved the way for Max Verstappen to pass the Briton on the final lap of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

He would then say “we’ll see about next year” in his post-race interview having graciously congratulated the 24-year-old, and took an extended break from the public eye to gather himself.

His Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff later revealed that he and his driver had become “disillusioned” with the pinnacle of motorsport, strengthening suspicions that the 37-year-old was headed for the exit.

However, he returned early in February, posting on social media: “I’ve been gone. Now I’m back,” and was welcomed back by his team, popular figures in the sporting world and fans alike.

The Briton confirmed last week that he never had intention of retiring, but Doornbos wonders if his silence adversely affected Mercedes’ preparations for the 2022 season.

“Mercedes took a long time to reveal everything,” he wrote in a piece for BBC’s Top Gear.

“They have just come out of a winter break where Hamilton has been taking it easy. I don’t know if that is a good preparation for the team and I find it all a bit unsettling.

“They don’t really have Hamilton under control. As a team you want to be able to control where and when your driver is somewhere, but I don’t think this is very professional.”

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The Dutchman sees Hamilton’s self-exile from the outside world as a way of cultivating attention around him.

“It doesn’t take anything away from his skills, and he is and will remain a legend. I am certainly happy that he is back, but the way he is doing it is a form of bringing attention to himself.”

Following such an enticing battle between the 37-year-old and the young Dutchman last year, the 40-year-old is excited to see a repeat of the unrelenting drama.

Further, he is enthused by the prospect of George Russell’s involvement in the title battle following his signing to Mercedes to replace the departing Valtteri Bottas.

“With Hamilton returning in 2022, we will have part two of Lewis versus Max,” he added.

“George Russell could also play a role in this. I expect Russell to be a regular winner of the day. He’s a super talent that only comes along once every few years.

“Over the whole season I think Hamilton knows how to do it just a little bit better, but Russell will regularly take points away from Lewis.”

Masi lost his role as race director earlier this month, being replaced by a combination of Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas.

The teams are in Barcelona this week for the first pre-season test, and Hamilton used the press conference as an opportunity to urge the FIA to encourage less biased stewarding in F1.