Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has seemingly refused to rule out Lewis Hamilton retiring from Formula One with the record-breaking Brit set to snub the FIA’s end-of-season gala. The seven-time World Champion has sparked fears he could call time on his F1 career after losing out on this season’s crown to rival Max Verstappen in controversial circumstances.
Hamilton was cruising to an unprecedented eighth world title during Abu Dhabi’s season-decider on Sunday before a dramatic crash involving Nicholas Latifi of Williams saw the race spiral into chaos. After leading Verstappen by 11 seconds heading into the final stages of the race, Hamilton was then pipped by the Red Bull driver on the last lap following confusion surrounding the safety car.
Hamilton accused the race of being “manipulated” and with speculation now growing over whether the 36-year-old will return behind the wheel next season, his team principal Wolff refused to confirm the Brit’s plans. When asked about Hamilton’s future ahead of the FIA’s Prize Giving Ceremony on Thursday evening, Wolff remained coy, stating: “I would very much hope that Lewis continues racing – because he is the greatest driver of all times…
I think as a racer his heart will say he needs to continue. “The German boss did confirm that neither he nor Hamilton would attend the FIA’s end-of-season bash in Paris, with the Mercedes team still feeling aggrieved after Sunday’s controversy. While the Mercedes boss expressed his hopes that Hamilton would return in a bid to reclaim his crown and achieve a record-breaking eighth world title, Wolff also admitted his driver needs time to overcome the “pain” suffered in his last-lap loss.
Speculation has been rife regarding Hamilton’s retirement following his cryptic comments shortly after the drama unfolded in the United Arab Emirates. “I think we did an amazing job this year,” Hamilton told post-race interviewer Jenson Button. “My team worked so hard this whole year, it’s been the most difficult of seasons. “We gave it everything and never gave up and that’s the most important thing.”
A shell-shocked Hamilton then added: “We’ll see about next year.” While the Mercedes driver no doubt welcomed the distraction of being awarded his knighthood by the Prince of Wales at Windsor Castle only days after his F1 heartache, his team issued a tribute to Hamilton as they reluctantly withdrew their final appeal against the FIA. The Mercedes statement read: “We left Abu Dhabi in disbelief of what we had just witnessed. Of course, it’s part of the game to lose a race, but it’s something different when you lose faith in racing.
“Lewis, you are the greatest racer in the history of Formula 1 and you drove your heart out for every lap of this incredible season. “You’re a flawless sportsman on and off the track and you delivered a faultless performance. As a pure competitor and as a role model for millions around the world, we salute you.”