There will be major changes for Formula 1 in 2022 as a new generation of cars hit the track and a record 23 races feature on the schedule. However, with just six weeks to go until the first pre-season test in Barcelona, the sport could yet have to deal with the biggest change of all: the possibility of Lewis Hamilton not being on the grid.
Following the 2021 season’s highly-contentious last race – and lap – in Abu Dhabi, Hamilton’s future in F1 remains “unclear”, Sky Sports reported. The British driver missed out on winning a record-breaking eighth world title as Max Verstappen won his first in “hugely controversial circumstances”.
Hamilton’s Mercedes team withdrew their appeal against the result as governing body the FIA “pledged an investigation into the events surrounding the Safety Car procedures”, the broadcaster said. And the FIA’s Abu Dhabi investigation is understood to be “key” to the resolution of Hamilton’s future.
Mercedes want to see something “tangible”, said Sky Sports News’ Craig Slater. “It’s been put to me like this: the longer this drags on then the worse the Lewis Hamilton situation is, and that is from a senior source.”
‘He is a man with clear values’
After the 2021 season finale, Hamilton made a “cryptic reference” when speaking with Jenson Button in the post-race interview. “We gave it everything and never gave up and that’s the most important thing,” he said. “We’ll see about next year.”
However, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff last month said the driver would “never overcome the pain and the distress” that was caused at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and he indicated that it was not a certainty the 37-year-old would be back in 2022, Wheels24 reported.
Wolff “very much” hopes that Hamilton continues racing, because he is the “greatest driver of all time”. But when asked if the Brit could retire, Wolff added: “As a racer his heart will say I need to continue because he’s at the peak of his game. But we have to overcome the pain that was caused upon him. He is a man with clear values.”
FIA boss ‘confident’ Hamilton will return
Hamilton has not posted anything on his social media channels since before the race in Abu Dhabi and this has prompted suggestions of retirement in some circles.
But racing fans across the globe may “breathe a sigh of relief”, after Mercedes “dropped a huge hint” that their driver will be on the grid in 2022, the Daily Mirror reported. On 2 January Mercedes tweeted an image of Hamilton along with the caption: “Adversity causes some to break; others to break records.”
Mohammed Ben Sulayem, the new FIA president, disagreed with suggestions Hamilton would retire. “No, I don’t think he will [quit],” he said. “I’ll ask your question, did Lewis declare that he’s not going to race? No. Exactly. Being a driver, you declare yourself, you don’t let the rumours [talk].”
Ben Sulayem is “confident” that Hamilton will return as he is a “big part of motorsport” and of F1. “The new era [can add to] Lewis’s wins and achievements, and also Verstappen is there,” he added. “I am very confident that you will see a very challenging Formula 1 season next year.”