Lewis Hamilton has been silent since the controversial ending of the 2021 Abu Dhabi GP, when he lost the Drivers’ Championship to Max Verstappen on the last lap of the race.
Other than a short interview to the world immediately after the race, and an appearance at Buckingham Palace to receive his knighthood, Hamilton has not been seen or heard.
It leads to the question of whether Hamilton will make a shock announcement to retire from Formula 1.
What have Mercedes said?
Mercedes were understandably angry at the FIA’s decision to dismiss their protest regarding the Safety Car procedure, so there was no reaction from the Silver Arrows camp for three days following the Abu Dhabi GP.
The team were represented by chief technical officer James Allison at the FIA Prize Giving Ceremony, but Hamilton failed to attend.
Team principal Toto Wolff said there wasn’t a lot to discuss with Hamilton during the aftermath of the Formula 1 finale.
“I’m in a daily dialogue with him but also respect that there is not a lot to talk about at the moment,” added Wolff. “Each of us copes in their own way with the feelings that we have at the moment.
“I just need to do the utmost that I can to help him to overcome these imminent feelings that he has in order for him to return strong with a love of the sport and trust in the decision-making of the sport next year. We wish very much that this would be the case.”
Hamilton’s brother, Nicolas, confirmed the British driver is taking a break from social media but is “fine”.
A Hamilton retirement would shock the world
It would be very difficult to understand why Hamilton would even contemplate a surprise retirement.
The seven-time World Champion is still at the peak of his powers, with excellent raw speed and incredible tyre management.
He showed no signs of slowing down last year and it required a mighty effort from Red Bull and Verstappen to beat him over the course of a season.
Hamilton will surely relish the opportunity to bounce back and he can also silence his doubters by having the upper hand on new teammate George Russell.
A new set of technical regulations for the upcoming 2022 season could see Mercedes dominate once again, given they seemed to put most of their focus into this year’s new car, despite being in a title fight.
Should Mercedes be the team to beat, Hamilton would be the big favourite to become World Champion.
Hamilton would also put Mercedes in a very tricky situation if he retired from Formula 1. Who would realistically replace him at such short notice?
Maybe the team could bring back Valtteri Bottas immediately, but there’s no chance they would be able to sign up one of the best drivers on the grid such as Verstappen, Charles Leclerc or Lando Norris.
Hamilton would likely not want to put Mercedes in a precarious position.
Will Hamilton retire after an eighth title?
Perhaps Hamilton was ready to retire if he won a record-breaking eighth World Championship last year. Instead, he now has to prepare himself to go again and get into the right mental state to travel the world and endure the challenge of 23 races.
Breaking Michael Schumacher’s record for the most number of Drivers’ Championships won is the only notable feat Hamilton doesn’t have in the sport.
Even though he signed a new two-year deal to stay at Mercedes until the end of 2023, Hamilton will almost certainly choose when he wants to walk away from the sport. If anyone has earned that right, Hamilton has.