FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem has poured cold water on suggestions Lewis Hamilton is about to retire and declared that seven-time Formula 1 World Champion is a fundamental part of the sport.
The Mercedes driver has been deeply aggrieved since the 2021 season finale in Abu Dhabi, watched by Ben Sulayem, the Briton denied an eighth title in controversial circumstances. The title, instead, going to the sport’s deserving new World Champion Max Verstappen.
A protest by Mercedes was eventually snuffed out, but Toto Wolff’s team made it clear they felt robbed on a night that spilt the F1 community from pundits to casual fans, triggering the Hamilton stories which were exacerbated by his social media blackout.
Ben Sulayem attending the start of this year’s Dakar Rally, in Saudi Arabia, was asked about Hamilton, who missed the FIA Awards event in Paris last month and the rumours.
The new President, who has F1 drivers on speed-dial, told reporters: “I sent a message to Lewis, but I don’t think he is ready to talk about what happened in Abu Dhabi. He never said he wants to retire.”
Meanwhile, the FIA election, Jean Todt stepping down and Ben Sulayem taking the hot-seat, all happening in the wake of the controversial season finale plus the festive season in between.
There has been little time to analyse and make decisions in wake of the Abu Dhabi finale
Ben Sulayem explained: “I was elected only two weeks ago and I’m still studying what happened. F1 is a dynamic sport and so must we be, active rather than reactive, rules must be adapted. Regulations are not god’s word, they can be improved.”
With the top three drivers in the F1 world championship standings obliged by rules to attend the FIA Awards event, Hamilton, runner-up to Verstappen, was notably absent.
The FIA President revealed: “I just sent Lewis a message, I don’t think he’s 100% ready to talk about what happened, I understand his position. It is not a question of punishing a driver or a team, but of enforcing the rules, but I don’t want to make a decision without having studied the facts in-depth.”
As for Hamilton retiring, Ben Sulayem asked the interviewer: “Have you heard Lewis say he wants to retire? No.” And added: “I’m confident, very confident, that he will be on the grid. Lewis is a fundamental part of our sport.”