The seven-time World Champion saw what would have been a record-breaking eighth crown slip through his fingertips at the Yas Marina circuit, FIA race director Michael Masi making a decision during a late Safety Car period to set-up a final lap showdown between Hamilton and Max Verstappen by clearing only the lapped cars between them. Verstappen, with his fresh tyres, got the job done to clinch his maiden World title in the most controversial of circumstances and while Hamilton was gracious in defeat during the post-race interviews, he has been silent since.
That silence has continued to allow a breeding ground for rumour and speculation on Hamilton’s future, even if the signs from the Mercedes social accounts suggest business is continuing as usual by posting Hamilton content throughout the week. Hamilton is currently contracted to the Mercedes team until the end of the 2023 campaign, but the events of Abu Dhabi has led to talk that he may walk away for good before the 2022 season begins.
As for the continued silence, 1997 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve, who is never reluctant to share what he thinks, believes Hamilton is trying to protect his post-Formula 1 future by keeping silent on the subject. “I interpret Hamilton’s silence as him wanting to put some distance between himself and Wolff,” Villeneuve is quoted as having told La Gazzetta della Sport. “After all, you can lose with style, whereas Toto behaved like someone who is playing Monopoly. The moment he is losing, [he] throws the whole board into the air.
“In doing so, Wolff suffered a lot of image damage, in my opinion. “Hamilton is sensitive to that because he is thinking about his future in America, maybe even in Hollywood.” As for whether Hamilton comes back for the 2022 campaign, Villeneuve is of the opinion that all comes down to whether the new Mercedes car is fast enough. “It depends on the car that Mercedes will give Hamilton, whether he can win easily with it or not,” he speculated.
“Lewis is also a bit more tired, he has had [some] easy seasons after Nico Rosberg’s departure and he really won’t want to have another year like he experienced last season. “He thought he could easily bring in the record eighth title and that didn’t happen. “It’s like a diamond that you have in your hands and then suddenly it’s taken out of your hands.
“In this way it hurt much more than if Verstappen would have simply led the whole race.” McLaren boss, Zak Brown, has also been pondering what Hamilton’s next move will be and said he “wouldn’t be shocked” if he did decide to hang up his race helmet. However, he ultimately thinks Hamilton will be back to partner new team-mate George Russell at the Silver Arrows this upcoming season.