Mercedes have virtually confirmed that Sir Lewis Hamilton will be remaining in Formula 1 in 2022 after his heart-breaking championship defeat last year.
A controversial Safety Car restart by race director Michael Masi – in which he allowed a limited number of lapped runners to get their lap back – allowed Max Verstappen to snatch the championship away from the Briton on the very last lap of the race.
Hamilton said “we’ll see about next year” during his interview immediately after the completion of the chaotic events at the Yas Marina Circuit, casting doubt over whether he would have any interest in returning for this year.
Indeed, Bernie Ecclestone and Mark Webber both saw this as a potential hint that the Mercedes driver may be headed for the exit, while Former F1 driver Perry McCarthy told Formula1News.co.uk that an impending retirement was “possible.”
Having disappeared from social media for almost a month to take some time away, the 37-year-old finally broke his silence on Saturday, posting a picture of himself in the United States with the caption: “I’ve been gone. Now I’m back.”
Mercedes later teased upcoming pictures of the 103-time race winner with his new team-mate George Russell, before posting a collage of messages renowned figures in the world of sport – such as Pele and Serena Williams – captioning the tweet: “Welcome back, Lewis Hamilton.”
This all comes after team principal Toto Wolff suggested that both he and his driver had become “disillusioned” with the sport after the title had been decided in such bizarre fashion, and he has lobbied the FIA, now led by Mohammed ben Sulayem, for tangible change going forward.
1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve recently posited that Hamilton’s radio silence was a way of distancing himself from the Austrian’s behaviour, adding that he acted like “someone who is playing Monopoly. The moment he is losing, [he] throws the whole board into the air.”
Mercedes are to unveil their 2022 car on 18 February, and Hamilton is now expected to be in the car for the pre-season “shakedown” in Spain, which begins on 23 February.