Lewis Hamilton admits he lost some faith in Formula 1 but never seriously considered retirement, saying he didn’t want the Abu Dhabi controversy to define him.
The FIA has overhauled race control and removed Michael Masi as race director as a result of the handling of the final laps of the championship decider last season, that saw Hamilton overtaken by Max Verstappen on the final lap following a controversial restart procedure. Speaking to the media for the first time since the start of that race at the launch of the Mercedes team’s 2022 car, Hamilton says his silence reflected a decision to “unplug” from F1 for a spell but that he didn’t seriously consider stopping racing.
“I’ve considered retiring so many times!” joked Hamilton (pictured above at the launch of the W13 with new teammate George Russell). “I’m kidding. Honestly I haven’t. Of course, I think at the end of a season you think and the question is whether you’re willing to commit the time, the effort it takes to be a world champion — I think a lot of people underestimate what it takes to be a world champion and there are so many moving parts. It is not just turning up and driving the car.
“So yeah, the question is do you want to sacrifice the time, do you believe you can continue to punch at the weight you’re punching and so that’s a normal mental process for me.
“Of course this one was compounded by a significant factor, and I think ultimately a sport I’ve loved my whole life, there was a moment where I kind of, yeah, I obviously lost a little bit of faith within the system, but I’m generally a very determined person. While moments like this might define others’ careers, I refuse to let this define mine so I focused on being the best I can be and coming back stronger.”
Hamilton says he will use the motivation from the way 2021 finished to perform at an even higher level this season.
“With these long seasons the ‘off’ time isn’t as long as you would hope for. It seems to get shorter and shorter. But I think over the years I’ve learned how to be efficient with my time — with my recovery, with training, with the building back up of the body and your mind. But I feel great. I feel fit. Naturally when you have an extra year of experience under your belt that always helps.
“I always feel like through these sort of experiences, you can turn that emotion into strength and into power, and that’s what I’m doing. I’m putting that into my training. I’m putting that into the work I have with the men and women in this team. If you think that what you saw at the end of last year was my best, wait until you see this year.”
Having admitted he lost some faith in the sport, Hamilton said it will take time to regain it but that he won’t be concerning himself with how long that takes.
“I’d probably put faith and trust alongside each other. Trust obviously can be lost in the blink of an eye or the flick of a finger, but to earn trust is something that’s built over a long, long period of time.
“Whilst I didn’t see that coming… this first announcement yesterday (of changes to F1 race control) is perhaps the first step of that, but it doesn’t necessarily change everything just yet. We have to see actual action. I think it will take a big of time. I’m not really focused necessarily on that area at the moment. I’m just putting absolutely every ounce of my energy and time into making sure that I’m the best you’ve ever seen.”