Plot thickens in Hamilton retirement riddle after controversial F1 finale
The Brit was beaten by new champion Max Verstappen on a contentious final day of the F1 calendar
Lewis Hamilton will reportedly decide his Formula 1 future after the findings of an inquiry into the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix have been released, as Mercedes were forced to deny they want to see race official Michael Masi fired.
One of the most dramatic finales to a season in recent memory saw Hamilton denied the chance to retain his crown and surpass the legendary Michael Schumacher with eight world championship wins in total.
Dominating the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix almost until the very end, the 37-year-old was on track for the all-time feat until Nicholas Latifi crashed his Williams in the closing stages.
While the collision was not with Hamilton, FIA race director Michael Masi was accused of not applying the rules correctly during a safety-car period which meant that Verstappen had a better shot at overtaking his title rival him on the final lap.
The Dutchman proceeded to do so to claim his maiden F1 crown and deny Hamilton a fifth title in a row.
According to Mercedes boss Toto Wolff, the scandal has left Hamilton “disillusioned” with F1 officials.
BBC Sport now reports that Hamilton will wait to see which action the FIA takes to address concerns that came to light in the aftermath of the Abu Dhabi meeting before making up his mind on his racing future.
Amid their inquiry, the governing body is said to be aware of Hamilton’s discontent and knows that it has a job on its hands to win back his confidence.
“I don’t think he’s 100% ready to respond right now,” said new president Ben Sulayem at the turn of 2022, after revealing he had tried to reach out to Hamilton.
“We don’t blame him. I understand his position.”
As the FIA stands accused of not fully grasping the threat to its credibility the events at Yas Marina pose, despite admitting that they were “tarnishing the image” of F1 in a statement last month, it has plenty of leg work to do before two pre-season tests on February 23 and the 2022 opener in Bahrain on the weekend of March 18-20.
Masi’s future appears under threat over his application of the rules in Abu Dhabi.
Throughout 2021, concerns were raised by teams and their drivers over the consistency of his application of the rules, and BBC Sport also claims that a senior source has said Mercedes have dropped an appeal against the race after striking a quid pro quo agreement with the FIA.
Though the German manufacturer denies this, the deal is said to insist that Masi and Nikolas Tombazis, the head of single-seater technical matters, are relieved of their duties.
Instead, Mercedes say they have shelved the appeal after receiving assurances that the issue will be taken seriously as will appropriate action.
But while Masi’s position is believed to be unattainable, the FIA is in a difficult spot as there are no obvious replacements for the Australian.
Penning a new deal last year, Hamilton has a contract at Mercedes until the end of the 2023 season with strong action from the authorities likely to see him staying put both in his current stable and the sport as a whole.