F1 2022: Lewis Hamilton breaks silence, retirement, will he be back? Mercedes, Michael Masi, Max Verstappen

Seven-time F1 champion Lewis Hamilton has finally broken his silence but his cryptic post has done little to answer any questions.

Lewis Hamilton has finally broken his silence posting on social media for the first time since the controversial end to the F1 season.

But despite his first post in nearly two months, the seven-time world champion still hasn’t answered the big question of whether we will see him for the 2022 F1 season.

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The questions have been rife as to whether Hamilton will return to the sport to chase his eighth title or whether the drama at the season ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will push him out of the sport.

Hamilton led the season-ending race from the first lap until five laps from home, Williams’ Nicholas Latifi crashed.

Verstappen had changed onto fresh tyres as a last-ditch effort to catch Hamilton but the safety car brought the field together — and when F1 race director Michael Masi instructed the back markers between Hamilton and Verstappen to move out of the way.

It left Hamilton a sitting duck on old hard tyres against Verstappen on fresh soft tyres and the young Dutchman claimed his maiden title.

A despondent Hamilton had not been heard since, even getting in trouble when he skipped the F1 awards.

But since then, without any word from Hamilton, the world has been speculating whether he’ll be back or not to attempt to move past the record he shares with Michael Schumacher of seven world titles.

Now, he has finally broken his silence and we’re all still none the wiser about his future plans.

Posing overlooking the Grand Canyon, Hamilton wrote: “I’ve been gone. Now I’m back!”

The post has more than two million likes on Instagram and almost 400,000 on Twitter.

But it still leaves his future as clear as mud.

Does that mean he was gone from F1 over the summer break and now he’s back? Or was he gone from social media and now he’s back? Or is it a more existential message that he was “gone” after the F1 finale and is has now rediscovered himself? Is he just back at the Grand Canyon? I guess we’ll eventually find out.

Mercedes will reveal their W13 F1 car for the 2022 season on February 18 in an online event so it’s likely that will be when we get answers.

If not, testing begins February 23 ahead of the season opening Bahrain Grand Prix on March 10-12.

But the F1 world has still been questioning if Hamilton would put himself through another long season in the sport, especially with the new technical regulations meaning the 2022 season is set to be a more open season.

The likes of ex-F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone and McLaren boss Zak Brown have been on the record saying the British champion could walk away, while others are worried he may.

Former F1 world champion Mika Hakkinen said if Mercedes couldn’t give Hamilton a contending car, he may walk away, while Mercedes technical director Mike Elliott said there was no way to know how the car would perform as the new regulations forced them to “start from scratch”.

“In most years, when you have got carry over regulations, you have got a pretty good idea of what good looks like,” Elliott said.

“You know what sort of gains you need to make from the previous year’s car and you can work on a direction of finetuning and finding all those incremental gains that can make you quicker.

“You don’t know where you can get to and that is exciting for engineers. It is an exciting challenge to try and work out what the opportunity might be and to explore all of those opportunities and try and do that in a better way than the opposition does.”

Sky Sports’ Karun Chandhok said a shock exit would be “very damaging for the sport.

“That would be extremely damaging for the reputation of the sport and the FIA,” Chandhok told The Express.

“Honestly, if that did happen, it’s quite hard to see how the FIA would recover from that very quickly to be honest. It’s the sport’s biggest star basically questioning their integrity. So I hope that doesn’t happen.”

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff also hinted it was possible Hamilton might walk away when he said his driver was “disillusioned”.

Race director Michael Masi received criticism for allowing the one-lap finish and has had plenty of people calling for his head. But an FIA inquiry will not be made public until the eve of the new season.

Originally published as ‘I’m back’: Lewis Hamilton finally breaks silence with cryptic post

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