Lewis Hamilton will only return to Formula One in 2022 if the FIA takes significant action after Max Verstappen controversially won the 2021 world championship, according to a report by the BBC. Max Verstappen picked up a maiden F1 title in Abu Dhabi in a dramatic winner-takes-all race to the finish line as he hunted down Hamilton, who had led for much of the race.
Hamilton, who was fighting for a record-breaking eighth title, had just a handful of laps remaining and was on course to become the greatest F1 driver in history if he could hold off his main title rival Verstappen, who needed a “miracle” to win. But with five laps remaining a safety car was deployed and the tables turned for Mercedes after a controversial decision from the FIA race director Michael Masi saw the championship swing back towards the Dutchman.
The Australian seemed not to apply the rules correctly, and allowed just the five cars between leader Hamilton and second-placed Verstappen un-lap themselves, leaving the Briton a sitting duck. On far fresher tyres, the Dutchman stormed to victory after a last-lap lunge on Hamilton, crossing the line first to seal the deal at Yas Marina. Mercedes were furious, as boss Toto Wolff immediately retreated to his Mercedes office after the race before lodging two protests with the FIA, with all Mercedes personnel refusing to speak to any media.
Verstappen and Red Bull had an agonising wait until it was finally announced that Mercedes would not push forward with an investigation and the 24-year-old was named champion. In the aftermath, Hamilton has disappeared from the public eye, with the FIA pledging to investigate what happened during the final few laps of the race that saw the seven-time world champion denied a title.
The BBC adds Mercedes only dropped their appeal against the FIA ‘after agreeing on a quid pro quo’ with the FIA to sack Masi and head of single-seater technical matters Nikolas Tombazis, something the eight-time world champions deny. Instead, the team say the appeal was dropped after they received additional reassurances from senior members that the appropriate action would be taken by the governing body.
But Hamilton is said to have lost trust with the governing body and will wait for the results of the inquiry before committing to a return to the championship. The BBC adds that some senior F1 insiders have growing concerns that the governing body is not taking on board how credible the threat is, with the first of two pre-season tests set to get underway on 23 February