Formula One chief executive Stefano Domenicali is reportedly holding off from contacting Lewis Hamilton as the sport faces the very real prospect of losing the Mercedes driver. Hamilton and Mercedes were left furious by the manner of how the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix finished, with the FIA launching an inquest.
Hamilton has yet to publicly comment on the events at that race, which led to him losing his World Champion crown to Max Verstappen.
Verstappen was able to overtake Hamilton on the final lap, subsequently securing his place at the top of the standings.
But the Red Bull man was only able to do that because race director Michael Masi appeared to create a new interpretation of the rules around the use of the safety car. The safety car had been deployed after Nicholas Latifi crashed and with the field bunched up, five lapped cars were between second-placed Verstappen and race leader Hamilton.
At first Masi ruled that lapped cars would not be able to overtake the safety car before it was recalled to the pit-lane, effectively handing Hamilton the win he needed to finish top. But the Australian over-ruled himself soon after, decreeing that only the five cars between Hamilton and Verstappen should overtake the safety car and move themselves out of the way.
Verstappen had pitted for new soft tyres when the safety car was first deployed, handing him a clear advantage over Hamilton who was not stopped. That meant the Dutchman was able to overtake the Englishman when racing got back underway, picking up the World Championship in the process.
The events left Mercedes and Hamilton furious, but the Silver Arrows saw two protests denied by the race stewards. The FIA have since announced an investigation into what happened at the race, in the hope they can quell the anger.
But doubts are increasing about whether Hamilton will be returning to the track when the 2022 season gets underway. With Hamilton still remaining silent on the issue, F1 chief Domenicali has opted to keep his distance from the seven-time champion.
“Stefano Domenicali has been in touch with Toto Wolff about Lewis Hamilton’s situation,” F1 reporter Craig Slater told Sky Sports News. “But he respects Lewis himself needing that bit of space right now so has not got in touch directly with him. “Mercedes themselves are unclear if Lewis Hamilton will carry on as their driver in this 2022 season.”
Sky Sport also report that the results of the investigation are expected to be published at the start of February, three weeks before pre-season testing starts.