Formula 1 star Lewis Hamilton has been noticeably muted in the wake of his title defeat to newly crowned championMax Verstappen, but it may be premature to heed the recent rumours of retirement.
Or at least Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has appeared to suggest the Brit isn't heading for the exit, reasoning the seven-time champion is simply wrestling with his emotions in the wake of his heartbreaking defeat at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
It's understandable that Hamilton would be reeling after he just missed out on the 2021 F1 crown, losing to Verstappen earlier this month in highly controversial circumstances.
The 36-year-old looked a shoo-in to win his fifth straight world championship after building an 11-second lead with five laps to go, only for a safety car to wipe out that buffer and put him in a one-lap shoot-out with Verstappen.
Red Bull 's poster boy went on to win the race equipped with fresher tyres, denying Hamilton his chance to pull clear of F1 great Michael Schumacher with a record-breaking eighth world title.
That's led to increased talk of Hamilton giving up the sport he's dominated for the better part of a decade, but Wolff's most recent comments hint a comeback is on the cards.
“We are all wavering in emotions and Lewis most of all,” he told Motorsport-total.com.
“He won the World Championship until the last lap, and then everything is taken away from you from one second [to the next]. Of course you lose faith because you can’t understand what has just happened.
“The silence is there, of course, because he simply lacks words as well.”
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Verstappen has been projected for F1 stardom for some years, but the manner in which the 24-year-old clinched his maiden crown has gone down as one of the most controversial conclusions to a campaign.
Mercedes initially flagged their intention to appeal the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix result but have since withdrawn their objection, confirming Verstappen as the incumbent king of Formula 1.
The F1 veteran first sparked retirement concerns following his comments in the immediate aftermath at the Yas Marina Circuit, posing doubt as to whether he'd return in 2022 in an attempt to reclaim the F1 throne.
"A big congratulations to Max and his team. I think we did an amazing job this year. My team worked so hard this whole year, it's been the most difficult of seasons," he said after finishing second in Abu Dhabi.
"We gave it everything and never gave up and that's the most important thing.
"I've felt great in the car in the past couple of months. We're still in the pandemic and I just want everyone to stay safe and spend Christmas with their families.
"We'll see about next year."
Earlier this week, Hamilton raised further eyebrows after unfollowing everyone on his Instagram account, including employers Mercedes, many of his sponsors and his much-loved dog, Roscoe.
Verstappen recently empathised with his rival's plight but said he sees "no reason for him [Hamilton] to give up," suggesting he wants to revive their head-to-head at the earliest possible juncture.
The 2022 F1 season is set to kick off on March 20 with the Bahrain Grand Prix, giving drivers a little less than three months to prepare before the rivalry begins anew.
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