LEWIS HAMILTON discussed his retirement in tense talks with Toto Wolff before the Formula 1 legend signed a new contract with Mercedes.
Lewis Hamilton has had a rollercoaster week, getting knighted on Tuesday after his heartbreaking title defeat in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix last Sunday. On the verge of an eighth world title, Hamilton was denied on the last lap as a safety car presented Max Verstappen with the chance to put on fresh tyres and secure his first Drivers’ Championship. Mercedes were livid with a decision from race director Michael Masi, who allowed some lapped cars to overtake the safety car, making the last lap much easier for the Red Bull driver. Mercedes’ protests were dismissed by the FIA, and the team announced this week they would not be taking the case further despite lodging an initial intent to appeal.
Mercedes Team Principal Toto Wolff threw Hamilton’s career into doubt this week, hinting the Formula 1 icon could retire.
He said: “I would very much hope Lewis continues racing because he is the greatest driver of all time.
“As a racer his heart will say I need to continue because he’s at the peak of his game.
“But we have to overcome the pain that was caused upon him on Sunday. He is a man with clear values.”
As ESPN reported in July this year, this isn’t the first time Wolff has hinted that Hamilton could retire soon.
The Austrian admitted earlier this year that he discussed Hamilton’s retirement with the Briton before they signed the latest contract.
He said: “I think he knows pretty well how he feels about racing. That passion burns strongly.
“In a way the tough championship has ignited even more fun with us to fight, and next year looks really exciting.
“We talked about retirement and it’s always really important to have that flirt with retirement, but equally be in control of your own destiny.
“I think at this stage there is so much passion for the sport that I can see him going for a while.”
Wolff said the financial aspect of the contract was relatively straightforward and most of the focus in the talks was based around how to develop a joint charitable foundation between Hamilton and Mercedes aimed at supporting greater diversity and inclusion in motorsport.
He continued: “There were no sticking points [in the negotiations]. Because of our discussions in the winter we knew what was important for Lewis, Lewis knows what our boundaries are.
“There were no difficult decisions around money or terms, it was more around what were the joint activities that we want to deploy, continue our foundation work, and carve that out in the right way.”
The new Formula 1 world champion, Verstappen, commented on speculation surrounding Hamilton’s future this week.
He said: “Of course, I can understand that the first few days, after a race like that, you’re not happy.
“You should also understand this is racing and these things can happen to you.
“I think he should just look back at what he has achieved, and that should give him a lot of comfort and that drive to keep on going.
“He is still trying to challenge for that eighth title, and he can do that again next year, so I don’t see any reason why to give up or stop now.”
However, many figures in Formula 1 are confident Hamilton will be back next season more fired up than ever.
Speaking on BBC Radio Five Live this week, former Formula 1 driver David Coulthard said he expects Hamilton to be back next year.
He said: “He showed why he was a seven-time World Champion. He’s a phenomenon and he’s an incredible sportsperson.
“He’s already committed to another two years. He’s a team person, he’s committed to that team and he will be there next year trying to win an eighth world title.
“I think he’s got inner peace. He will clearly be disappointed, to say the least, but you’ve got to try and imagine putting yourself in his shoes – he’s a great racing driver, he’s won multiple championships and he’s overcome adversity in his racing career.
“This is just another of those moments that won’t dilute the many great moments in his career.
“He’s a fantastic example to sportsmen and women out there on how to handle defeat.
“He recognised the challenge of Verstappen and these are the moments he lives for. Yes, he would have wanted to win but he showed his brilliance again.”