Mercedes increasingly confident Lewis Hamilton will snub F1 retirement as Brit keeps fit

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Mercedes are growing increasingly confident that Lewis Hamilton will return to Formula One for the new season despite speculation the seven-time world champion could walk away from the sport after a contentious season finale in Abu Dhabi.

Hamilton has disappeared from the public eye after he was beaten to the title by Max Verstappen in Abu Dhabi last month, with boss Toto Wolff admitting they felt “disillusioned” after the events, and demanded the FIA investigate into the circumstances surrounding the controversy.

However, according to The Times, Hamilton has been keeping himself in shape at his mountain home in Colorado according to sources, and is expected to be at pre-season testing next month in Barcelona and Bahrain’s test in March.

FIA race director Michael Masi was heavily criticised after allowing just five cars in between leader Hamilton and second-placed Verstappen to un-lap themselves during a safety car period with just five laps remaining of the title-deciding race.

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Verstappen, on fresher tyres, closed in on Hamilton who had become a sitting duck in the last-lap sprint to the finish, surrendering a record-breaking eighth title.

The FIA recognised the fall-out from events and pledged to investigate to avoid “tarnishing the image of the championship” and will speak with “all relevant parties.”

No information has yet been released from the investigation, with Mercedes still desperate for answers.

Mercedes unsuccessfully protested the incident with boss Wolff furious.

The Austrian team principal said: “Lewis and I are disillusioned at the moment. We are not disillusioned with the sport — we love the sport with every bone in our body, and we love it because the stopwatch never lies.

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“But if we break that fundamental principle of sporting fairness and authenticity of the sport, then suddenly the stopwatch doesn’t become relevant anymore because we are exposed to random decision-making, that it is clear you may fall out of love with.

“Then you start to question if all the work you have been putting in — all the sweat, tears, and blood — can actually be demonstrated in terms of being the best possible performance on track because it can be taken away randomly.

“It’s going to take a long time for us to digest what has happened, I don’t think we will ever get over it.

“That’s not possible. And certainly not as a driver.”

Hamilton congratulated Verstappen for his victory at Yas Marina but has since been silent on social media, only once making a public appearance to be knighted a week after the event.

The Briton also refused to attend the FIA prize-giving gala in Paris when the Dutchman was officially crowned world champion.

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