Mercedes were fully expecting Lewis Hamilton to retire from racing had he managed to beat Max Verstappen to Drivers’ Championship glory in Abu Dhabi last month, according to reports.
The 37-year-old is currently mulling over whether or not to return to the grid for the upcoming season after he was controversially denied a record-breaking eighth title at the Yas Marina Circuit.
Race director Michael Masi gifted Verstappen a late opportunity to fight back when he was allowed to move through the field after only the five lapped cars between himself and Hamilton were asked to overtake the safety car during the closing stages of the race.
Hamilton was left aggrieved by Masi’s handling of the race and it became apparent that his long-term future was in doubt when Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff quickly suggested that he could retire after losing trust in the FIA.
Those in command at Mercedes were adamant that the seven-time world champion would have called it quits if he had taken the chequered flag in the final race, according to The Telegraph.
Whether or not such a clause exists is unclear, with Mercedes technically able to sue Hamilton if he decides to call time on his F1 career before the expiry of his contract at the end of the 2023 season.
Hamilton is said to be waiting on the results of the FIA’s investigation into what happened in Abu Dhabi before committing himself to the sport for the foreseeable future.