Lewis Hamilton’s Formula One future should not be taken for granted, Zak Brown has insisted – with the McLaren boss admitting he would not be surprised if the seven-time world champion sensationally quits.
More than a month on from the controversial conclusion to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix which denied Hamilton a record eighth title, the Mercedes driver is said to be debating whether to return to the grid in 2022.
Hamilton has been conspicuous by his absence from social media in the weeks since the debacle in the desert.
An FIA inquiry was launched last week, but the governing body’s findings might not be made public until the eve of the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix on March 20.
Race director Michael Masi’s position is also in the spotlight after he was accused of bending the rules to allow Max Verstappen the chance to beat Hamilton in a one-lap shootout.
And Brown, who is in regular contact with Hamilton’s Mercedes boss Toto Wolff, said: “I wouldn’t be shocked if Lewis stopped and I don’t think anyone should take for granted that he is coming back.
“We should not discount or not recognise his frustration and anger and maybe he hasn’t taken a decision yet, and maybe what he is doing is taking time to make that decision. I don’t think we should rule retirement out or make light of it.”
Mercedes announced on Tuesday that they will launch the first car of F1’s revamped technical era at Silverstone on February 18, five days before the first winter test in Barcelona.
Hamilton is expected to be on site for the launch, alongside new team-mate and compatriot George Russell.
The 37-year-old’s deal with Mercedes, which earns him in the region of £40million-a-season, is due to expire at the end of next year.
Brown continued: “I personally think Lewis still has a burning desire to race, that will ultimately drive his decision, and I think he will be back.
18/2/22. 🗓️ Meet the Mercedes-AMG F1 W13 E Performance 🤩 pic.twitter.com/uv6oCGmNHh
— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) January 18, 2022
“Sure, he is very angry, but I think race-car drivers want to race and he is at the top of his game.
“He is a fighter and he will want to come back and try and win an eighth world championship.
“Once you hang it up, you hang it up and I don’t think he is ready to do that and let an incident put him into retirement.”
Newly elected FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem met with Wolff last Friday but details of the meeting have not been made public.
Both Red Bull team principal Christian Horner and rival Wolff lobbied their thoughts to Masi in the concluding moments of the Abu Dhabi race. The conversations were broadcast.
“As you can imagine, there were five laps left and a tremendous amount of pressure (on Masi),” Brown said.
“And to have people bending the ear of the referee means it is pretty difficult to make decisions when you have that noise.
“It is good for television that the microphone was open, but it created some decisions that maybe were not the right decisions.”