Lewis Hamilton expected not to retire from F1 as FIA set to have to make Michael Masi call

Mercedes boss hopes ‘robbed’ Lewis Hamilton will continue racing

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Express Sport readers widely expect Lewis Hamilton to remain in Formula One for the 2022 season rather than retire. It is thought the FIA’s investigation into the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will play a vital role in Hamilton’s decision to continue or not, with it having been suggested race director Michael Masi could lose his job for his part in the events.

Hamilton lost out on the 2021 Drivers’ Championship to Max Verstappen in the most controversial of circumstances as the Red Bull driver completed a last-lap overtake at Yas Marina Circuit for his first title triumph.

But there were question marks over the handling of the race. After a safety car period, Masi informed teams that no cars would be allowed to unlap themselves for the one-lap sprint to the finish.

There was then a u-turn however but only the five lapped cars between Hamilton and Verstappen, who had pitted for fresh tyres, were told to unlap themselves.

Lando Norris, Fernando Alonso, Esteban Ocon, Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel, who were running in 7th to 11th places, were the cars told to move out of the way.

But Daniel Ricciardo, Lance Stroll and Mick Schumacher – who all pitted under the safety car and were in 12th, 13th and 14th respectively – were not given the chance to unlap.

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Mercedes’ frustrations at Masi in particular have caused consternation over Hamilton’s future. Team principal Toto Wolff hinted soon after the race that it was far from certain the seven-time champion would be back in 2022, while the driver himself has been curiously quiet in the month since, posting nothing on social media.

The Austrian said of the underfire Masi: “I am not interested in having a conversation with Michael Masi. The FIA needs to decide if they are going to bother going forwards. It was a freestyle reading of the rules and it left Lewis like a sitting duck.”

F1’s governing body confirmed they would formally review the events of the race with the team to interview the likes of Masi, race stewards, the drivers and team representatives.

The FIA’s new president Mohammed Ben Sulayem is also taking up a key role in the process with it having been claimed Mercedes want Australian Masi ousted from his role.

It is unclear as of yet whether he will be punished for the apparent flouting of the rules, with the manner in which only some cars were allowed to unlap themselves going against the procedure set out in article 48.12 of F1’s sporting regulations.

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The Silver Arrows have denied suggestions by BBC Sport that they only dropped their appeal over the Abu Dhabi race, after having two protests thrown out, because they agreed a backhand deal for Masi to be sacked.

Yet all of the drama has left clouds over the future of Hamilton, who is under contract for the next two seasons with Mercedes, but Express Sport readers have voted in their numbers – and think the Brit will stick around.

A huge 72 per cent said they think Mercedes’ Hamilton will race in 2022, with 16 per cent saying they don’t think he will and 12 per cent unsure.

That means just shy of three-quarters of Express Sport’s readership expect Hamilton to do battle with Verstappen, and other drives like new team-mate George Russell, in the new season which begins in Bahrain on March 18-20.

Mercedes insist that in the midst of claims they have agreed a quid pro quo with the FIA one Masi and head of single-seater technical matters Nikolas Tombazis, they actually dropped their appeal due to assurances the issue would be treated seriously.

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Wolff said: “[We] expect the commission to not only come up with words but actually follow it with actions and we will hold them accountable for the actions.

“We cannot continue in a sport that is meant to be sport followed by entertainment and not the other way around, that we are held ransom by ad hoc decisions in every field, be it technical or sporting.

“And therefore, there needs to be clear measure in place before the start of the season so every driver, every team and the fans understand what is on and what is not on.”

Sky Sports say that the FIA plan to conclude the inquiry, led by its secretary general of motor sport Peter Bayer, by February 3 when the next World Motor Sport Council meeting will be held.

With the findings of the review critical to Hamilton’s future in the sport, an FIA spokesperson confirmed the investigation will be “thorough, objective and transparent”.

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