Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff has raised doubts about Lewis Hamilton’s future in Formula One and said the driver may never get over the pain of being “robbed” of a record eighth title.
The Austrian, speaking to reporters for the first time since Sunday’s race in Abu Dhabi and after Mercedes dropped plans to appeal, said he and Hamilton would not attend the FIA’s gala awards in Paris on Thursday evening (local time). The top three drivers are obliged to attend the event under Formula One regulations.
Hamilton lost to Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in the title race after the Dutch driver overtook him on the last lap at Yas Marina, benefiting from a sudden change to the safety car procedure that allowed racing to resume.
“It’s going to take a long time for us to digest what has happened on Sunday. I don’t think we will ever come over it, that’s not possible,” Wolff said.
“And certainly not him [Hamilton] as a driver. I would very much hope the two of us and the rest of the team, we can work through the events … But he will never overcome the pain and the distress that was caused on Sunday.”
Hamilton spoke briefly to 2009 world champion Jenson Button after Sunday’s grand prix but did no media post-race and has not spoken publicly since.
FIA president Jean Todt, left, shakes hands with Max Verstappen as Red Bull team chief Christian Horner looks on at the FIA prize-giving ceremony in Paris on Thursday.Credit:AP
He was also silent after being knighted at Windsor Palace on Wednesday.
Asked directly whether Hamilton, who turns 37 in January and has two years remaining on his contract, would be back next year, Wolff indicated it was no certainty.
“I would very much hope Lewis continues racing because he is the greatest driver of all time,” he said. “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.”
Mercedes won the constructors’ title for an unprecedented eighth year in a row and Wolff said technical head James Allison would be in Paris to collect the trophy on behalf of all the workforce.
Lewis Hamilton congratulates Max Verstappen in Abu Dhabi.Credit:Getty
“I won’t be there because of my loyalty to Lewis and because of my own personal integrity,” he said.
Wolff was confident Mercedes could have won a legal battle but there was “a difference between right and obtaining justice”.
He said every decision was taken with Hamilton.
“It was tremendously hard for him and for us as a team to withdraw the appeal, because we were wronged,” he added. “My soul and my heart cries with every bone that this should have been judged in the right way.”
Wolff said there had been no contact with Michael Masi, the Australian race director who made the safety car decision, since Sunday.
“I’m not interested in having a conversation with Michael Masi,” he said.
“The decisions that have been taken in the last four minutes of this race have robbed Lewis Hamilton of a deserved world championship. He won the start and he never gave the lead away again.
“Robbing him on the last lap of the race is unacceptable … my values, my sense of integrity, just isn’t compatible with the decisions that have been made on Sunday.”
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