Rumours have swirled throughout the winter about the seven-time former World Champion’s F1 future, ever since the immediate aftermath of the controversial end to the 2021 season. During a short interview in parc ferme at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Hamilton said “we’ll see about next year” as he tried to come to terms with the manner in which his title had been snatched away by Max Verstappen.
Having been in control of the last race throughout, and needing only to finish ahead of Verstappen to retain the crown, the Briton was still in the lead but left exposed to the Dutchman’s Red Bull just behind on fresher tyres due to a contentious call made by race director Michael Masi. The Australian set up a last-lap shootout between the title rivals by allowing only the lapped cars in between Hamilton and Verstappen to pass the Safety
Welcome back, @LewisHamilton ? pic.twitter.com/NVB8hNwCul
— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) February 7, 2022
Car before the lights turned green. Verstappen got past the Mercedes to take the race win and the championship. Nearly two months have passed with Hamilton not commenting further about what had unfolded amid speculation he could retire – but that now appears to have been put to bed by Mercedes. Two days after the 37-year-old ended his own absence from social media by posting an
“I’m back” message accompanied by a photo of him in the Grand Canyon, his F1 team gave a stronger indication that he will be around to partner George Russell in the 2022 season. Their tweet featured an image of Hamilton in his race suit and holding his crash helmet, smiling and gazing at a wall of messages welcoming him back. Time is certainly ticking down to the point when it will have to be abundantly clear whether
Hamilton will continue racing or not, with the Mercedes launch of their W13 car scheduled for February 18 – a week on Friday. Five days after that is the start of the ‘pre-season on-track session’, as Formula 1 are describing it, in Barcelona, which could also be classed as an unofficial three days of testing. On February 14, the findings from the FIA’s investigation into what occurred in those dramatic closing stages in Abu Dhabi will be presented at an F1 Commission meeting.
These will then be ratified and approved for public consumption at the World Motor Sport Council meeting on March 18 in Bahrain – the first day of practice for the 2022 season-opening grand prix.