Following a heartbreaking conclusion to their 2022 campaign at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Mercedes F1 Team Principal Toto Wolff and Sir Lewis Hamilton himself have both alluded to the possibility of the latter’s retirement.
While Mercedes sealed the deal for its eighth consecutive constructors’ championship by a clean margin, Hamilton was denied his eighth driver’s championship in rather controversial fashion thanks to the decision making of FIA Race Director Michael Masi. Almost a week after the fact, many still assert Masi’s enforcement/interpretation of safety regulations erased the British motorsport talent’s 10-second lead – effectively gifting Red Bull’s Max Verstappen his maiden title on a silver platter.
“I think we did an amazing job this year,” Lewis Hamilton told Sky Sports during his post-race interview.
“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.”
“We’ll see about next year.”
“It is going to take a long time to digest what has happened on Sunday… I don’t think we will ever get over it, that’s not possible,” adds Toto Wolff.
“Lewis and I are disillusioned at the moment. We’re not disillusioned with the sport. We love the sport with every bone in our body. And we love it because the stopwatch never lies.”
“But if we break that fundamental principle of spotting fairness and authenticity of the sport, then suddenly the stopwatch doesn’t become relevant anymore. Because we are exposed to random decision-making.”
“And it is clear that you may fall out of love with a sport if you start to question, with all the work you have been doing, all the sweat and tears and blood.”
Susie Wolff – former professional racing driver, CEO of Formula E’s Venturi Racing, and wife of Toto – expressed similar sentiments on Instagram.
“What happened is still hard to comprehend and leaves me with a sick feeling. Not the losing – and not Max or Red Bull – they are deserving winners and we always knew it was a strong possibility we may not win… but the way in which Lewis was robbed has left me in utter disbelief,” writes Susie Wolff.
“The decision of one person within the governing body who applied a rule in a way which has never been done before in F1 single-handedly decided the F1 Driver World Championship. Rules are rules, they can’t be changed on a whim by one individual at the end of a race.”
As some of you may recall, prior to the 2021 Formula 1 season opener in Bahrain, the news of Lewis Hamilton signing a single-year contract with Mercedes had sparked earlier rumours of retirement. While the precise reason was never fully disclosed, negotiations stalling that summer break only added fuel to the fire.
Speculation pointed towards the seven-time world champion’s desire to earn one last world title, thereby distinguishing himself from joint-record holder, Michael Schumacher, before calling it a day, hitting the showers, and closing out his storied chapter within the sport as a driver (“I could stay involved in F1 after retirement and I think I want to,” says Lewis Hamilton).
It was an ideal exit for an ideal scenario. But in the cut-throat realm of motorsports, you can always count on the likes of Max Verstappen to throw a spanner in the works. Under his latest contract extension reportedly valued at approximately $147 million, Lewis Hamilton will continue his tenure at the Mercedes stable until 2023.
“We’ve accomplished so much together, but we still have a lot to achieve – both on and off the track… We‘re entering a new era of car which will be challenging and exciting and I can’t wait to see what else we can achieve together,” Hamilton previously stated.
“I would very much hope that Lewis continues racing because he’s the greatest driver of all time,” says Toto Wolff.
“We will be working through the events over the next weeks and months and I think that as a racer, his heart will say, ‘I need to continue’ – because he is at the peak of his game.”
“But we have to overcome the pain that was caused upon him on Sunday, also because he is a man with clear values and it is difficult for him to understand how that happened.”
“I just have to do the utmost that I can to help him overcome this, in order for him to return strong and with a love of the sport, and trust in the decision-making of the sport next year, and I wish very much that will be the case.”
Guess we’ll just have to wait and see.