Happy Birthday, Lewis Hamilton! Our seven-time Formula 1 Champion turned 37 on Friday with the motorsport world wondering when he will break his self-imposed silence since the season ended in uproar last month.
The Mercedes driver was less than a lap away from a record eighth title in Abu Dhabi in December when he was passed by Red Bull rival Max Verstappen after race director Michael Masi changed the safety car procedure.
Hamilton spoke briefly before the podium, then sought out Verstappen to congratulate him but has otherwise said nothing publicly.
“We are still in the pandemic and I just really wish to stay safe and have a good Christmas … and we will see about next year,” he said in Abu Dhabi.
Hamilton last posted on social media before the race at Yas Marina:
P2 on the front row tomorrow, not bad since I prefer the battle. We’re looking strong and feeling focused — we’ve got to dig deeper than ever before. LET’S GO ‼️‼️ pic.twitter.com/3Pd3tjHQsp
— Lewis Hamilton (@LewisHamilton) December 11, 2021
Thereafter, Hamilton went off the radar completely, choosing not to speak to the media after being knighted at Windsor Castle last on 15 December and failed to show for the governing FIA’s prize-giving in Paris a day later, risking punishment since turning up is mandatory for the top three in the championship.
“I think he’s just having a bit of a social media break. I don’t blame him, social media can be a very toxic place but he’s cool though. He’s fine,” his brother Nicolas said on streaming platform Twitch late last month.
Formula 1’s most successful driver, with 103 career wins, now follows nobody on Instagram, where he has 26.5 million followers, but it is not the first time he has started afresh.
At the end of 2017, Hamilton, or his media team, wiped his Instagram and Twitter accounts after critics condemned comments he made over Christmas about his young nephew wearing a pink dress.
Mercedes: Adversity causes some to break; others to break records
Team boss Toto Wolff described Hamilton before Christmas as disillusioned but said he was in regular contact with the driver, who is signed to the end of 2023.
“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,” added the Austrian.
Mercedes posted on Twitter a picture of Hamilton on 2 January with the inspirational call to arms: “Adversity causes some to break; others to break records.”
The team clearly expect Hamilton to race on, with a new teammate in compatriot George Russell but will want to see concrete steps from the FIA to address what happened in Abu Dhabi.
The future of Masi, an Australian and also silent since the end of the season, is key.
Mohammed Ben Sulayem, the new president of the FIA, F1’s governing, told reporters last week he was confident Hamilton would be back but had not spoken to him.
“I don’t think he’s 100% ready to respond right now. We don’t blame him,” the Emirati said at the Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia. (Reporting by Alan Baldwin)
Celebrating the birthdays of one of our greatest champions, and our very own centurion 💜
— Formula 1 (@F1) January 7, 2022