Former Formula 1 driver Ralf Schumacher has criticised Sir Lewis Hamilton for boycotting the FIA Prize-Giving Gala last month, indicating that it was disrespectful to Max Verstappen.
Verstappen beat the 37-year-old to the championship last year after an extremely controversial season finale in Abu Dhabi, which itself was preceded by a contentious year of racing.
The rivals entered the final race of the year level on points, and Hamilton looked set to take the title having dominated much of the evening at the Yas Marina Circuit.
However, the race was turned on its head following a crash for Williams driver Nicholas Latifi, which brought out the Safety Car.
With time constraints threatening to see the race end behind the Safety Car, race director Michael Masi opted to allow only the five lapped cars between Hamilton and Verstappen through, leaving the rest where they were.
As a result, Verstappen, on fresh tyres having pitted under the Safety Car, passed the Briton on the final lap to claim title glory.
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff was on the radio to Masi during the final lap to tell him that the restart was “so not right,” to which the Australian replied: “It’s called a motor race.”
Hamilton himself took to the radio to suggest that the race had been “manipulated,” but accepted his defeat gracefully in the aftermath.
“Firstly, big congratulations to Max and his team,” he told 2009 world champion Jenson Button during the post-race interviews.
Mercedes protested the result to the stewards after the race, and saw this denied.
In response, they lodged an intention to appeal but rescinded this on the morning of the gala, instead insisting that they would hold the FIA “accountable” for an investigation they are carrying out into December’s events.
The investigation will be concluded on 18 March, just before the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.
Mercedes then boycotted the event in Paris, although Valtteri Bottas – who has now joined Alfa Romeo – did attend as one of the members of Mercedes’ Constructors’ Championship winning team.
The Silver Arrows also decided not to send their car to the gala for the customary photoshoot of the constructors’ winning machine.
In fact, Hamilton has been silent ever since the controversial closing events of the 2021 championship, and Schumacher believes that it was distasteful for the Briton not to attend the gala and congratulate his rival.
“It’s not at all fair to Max Verstappen to skip the gala,” the six-time F1 race winner told Sky Sports Deutschland.
The German advised Hamilton, Wolff and Mercedes to let go of their anger from last year and “open the next chapter” in 2022.
Following what he perceives to be a disrespectful gesture by skipping the ceremony in Paris, the German jovially suggested that someone should give Mercedes “a taste of their own medicine” this year.
Schumacher’s comments come after 1996 Formula 1 champion Damon Hill told Hamilton supporters to “get over” the 37-year-old’s heartbreak during a Twitter spat last week.
Following Hamilton’s cruel and controversial defeat to Verstappen in Abu Dhabi, the Brit’s future in Formula 1 has been cast into doubt, with him reportedly considering retirement.
Wolff recently said he can’t guarantee that Hamilton will continue to race in the pinnacle of motorsport in 2022, but Mercedes have since hinted that he will be driving for the team this upcoming season.