‘What more incentive do you want?’ Hamilton urged not to retire

Mario Andretti has shared his view that Sir Lewis Hamilton should not retire following his heart-breaking 2021 championship defeat to Max Verstappen.

Lewis Hamilton at the 2021 F1 season finale.v1

Former Formula 1 driver Mario Andretti believes that Sir Lewis Hamilton should have all the motivation he needs to return in 2022 following his heart-breaking defeat to Max Verstappen in 2021.

The seven-time champion was denied his record eighth title following a highly contentious late Safety Car restart in the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in December, which allowed Verstappen to pass him on the final lap of the race.

It followed a number of incidents involving the pair throughout a tumultuous year, while race director Michael Masi – who was also at the epicentre of multiple dramatic and bizarre moments last season – came under heavy criticism after the race.

Hamilton has been largely quiet since the events last month, but in his post-race interview with Jenson Button he hinted that he might not return to Formula 1 in 2022.

READ: Ex-F1 driver on Hamilton: ‘I don’t think he is running away’

Specifically, he said “we’ll see about next year,” leading many – among them Mark Webber and Bernie Ecclestone –  to suggest that he will be retiring from the pinnacle of motorsport after his defeat.

Andretti, who won the championship in 1978 for Lotus, reckons that the 37-year-old’s desire to break the record of seven championships that he currently holds jointly with Michael Schumacher will be too great to keep him away.

“It’s hard to get into somebody else’s head, but from where I stand I would say, ‘You know what? I’m going to go out there and show them!'” the American told RacingNews365.com.

“He has a big incentive to be alone with an eighth world title, so what more incentive do you want?

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“He has so much to look forward to, to go out there and still battle. He’s got all the ingredients to be able to fight. That’s the way I see it.”

The 81-year-old loved the drama between Red Bull and Mercedes last year and believes that it would be a shame for the fans and Hamilton alike if the Briton left.

“I’m sure that all of his fans would love to see that,” Andretti said.

“Let this saga continue, with this great rivalry between the two teams and two great drivers.

“I think he would probably even do a disservice to himself, perhaps, to leave under negative circumstances from his standpoint.”

While the manner in which the title was decided proved immensely divisive and polarising in the world of F1, Andretti is just pleased that we were treated to a title fight for the ages.

READ: Schumacher says Hamilton ‘not at all fair’ to Verstappen for skipping gala

As a result, he agrees that Verstappen is a worthy champion.

“Overall, by ending the way it did, Formula 1 can consider 2021 as a really fantastic season,” he said.

“At the end of the day you cannot argue about the ultimate results in my opinion.

“Max is certainly a deserving world champion.”

Several laps before the end of the race in December, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said that the Dutchman needed a “miracle” to overturn the 14-second deficit he had to Mercedes’ Hamilton at the time.

The 1969 Indy 500 winner recognises that sometimes in motorsport, as in any sport, a slice of fortune is needed.

“Max knows darn well that it took a miracle for it to happen, and the miracle was Latifi crashing, which no one could have predicted,” Andretti explained.

“But that’s the beauty of our sport: it’s not over until it’s over. You have to accept that,” he added.

1996 champion Damon Hill has recently told Hamilton supporters to “get over” his championship agony, and Andretti shares the opinion that late, contentious moments are a part of elite sport.

“You can cry until the cows come home but this is not the only time that things like that have happened in the last moment, the decisive moment.”

READ: Schumacher says Hamilton ‘not at all fair’ to Verstappen for skipping gala

He also reminded fans that the Mercedes driver enjoyed his fair share of good fortune in 2021.

“Lewis cannot really complain very much about bad luck,” he added. “Look at what happened at Silverstone, for instance.

Lewis Hamilton at the 2021 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.v1

“At Silverstone, he knocks out his biggest rival, he had damage to his car, they red-flagged the race, and then he was able to repair the car and still start up front and win the race, with his rival in a hospital.”

Verstappen has stated his belief that his rival will be on the grid in 2022, while Sky Sports pundit Martin Brundle has also recently suggested that we will be seeing the Briton take to the track for the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix on 20 March.

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