Former Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas may have brushed aside speculation about Lewis Hamilton’s retirement from Formula One, saying that the Briton is hungry for more success, but former F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone believes the seven-time champion is unlikely to return in 2022 to wrest back the title he lost to Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.
Bernie believes Hamilton will call it a day as he is dismayed with the way he lost the world title in a dramatic season finale at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
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Hamilton looked set to win his eighth world title when a turn of events saw Dutch driver Verstappen pass him on the last lap to clinch his maiden F1 title.
It was a controversial race and FIA race director Michael Masi was criticised heavily for his interpretation of rules relating to lapped cars under safety car conditions in the closing stages.
The decision to allow the lapped cars that separated the British driver and Verstappen to pass the safety car before it returned to the pits was disputable and Mercedes launched appeals before dropping their case.
Ecclestone feels this is reason enough for Hamilton not to return for the next season, which begins in March in Bahrain.
“I don’t think he is coming back, I think he will not race next year,” Ecclestone said. “His disappointment in Abu Dhabi was too big and I understand him. Now, tied for seven titles with Michael Schumacher, it is the perfect time for him to fulfil his dream and be a fashion entrepreneur.”
Ecclestone also feels that if the British driver does return to the track in a bid to reclaim the world title, he may struggle to dominate as he would have an ambitious teammate in George Russell.
“Lewis could only lose in 2022. Who knows how the new cars will reposition the field? With George Russell he would have an ambitious teammate, of whom I am not as convinced as many experts, by the way,” he said. “And then we don’t forget about Verstappen. With him, Hamilton has finally found an equal opponent after many years.”