As Lewis Hamilton’s F1 future remains up in the air, a legendary F1 supremo predicts he will hang up his helmet before next season.
Former Formula One chief executive Bernie Eccelstone believes Lewis Hamilton will quit the sport before the 2022 season.
The seven-time world champion has kept his cards close to his chest since he missed out on this year’s title to Max Verstappen, who overtook him on the last lap of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in controversial circumstances.
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Speculation has been rife about Hamilton’s future after he was beaten to the world championship for the first time since 2016.
The 36-year-old and Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff snubbed the end-of-season F1 gala, even though they were required to attend.
Wolff expects his charge to return to the grid next but Hamilton, who is contracted with Mercedes to the end of 2023, is yet to address his future publicly.
Earlier this week, he unfollowed all accounts on Instagram, including that of his dog.
Eccelstone, who was the boss of F1 for several decades, believes Hamilton will retire to focus on his other interests including fashion.
“I don’t think he’s coming back, I think he will not race next year” Eccelstone told Swiss-German publication view.
“His disappointment is too great. And you can understand that in a way. Now, tied for seven titles with Michael Schumacher, it is the perfect time for him to fulfil his dream and be a fashion entrepreneur.”
Eccelstone revealed he had spoken to Hamilton’s father Anthony, but they did not discuss his son’s F1 future.
“I immediately sensed that he wouldn’t answer a question about his son’s future,” he said.
“So we only talked about business.”
Conversely, Verstappen believes Hamilton should put the disappointment of Abu Dhabi behind him and continue to race in F1 since he still has the talent to contend for the world championship.
“I understand that,” Eccelstone said in response to the Dutchman’s opinion.
“With Hamilton, Max had a rival who was highly regarded by everyone. So successes count twice. And I maintain: Max is currently the best racing driver in the world.”
Eccelstone argued there’s no guarantee Hamilton will contend for the title next year due to introduction of F1’s new regulations, which aim to make it easier to overtake and make the dominant teams such as Mercedes and Red Bull less dominant.
“Lewis could only lose in 2022,” he said.
“Who knows how the new cars will reposition the field? With (new Mercedes teammate) George Russell he would have an ambitious teammate, of whom I am not as convinced as many experts, by the way.
“And then we don’t forget about Verstappen. With him, Hamilton has finally found an equal opponent after many years.”
Eccelstone’s bold prediction is in contrast to the view of current F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali, who believes Hamilton will come back hungrier than ever to win his eighth world title.
The 2022 F1 season will get underway with the Bahrain Grand Prix on March 20.