Nico Rosberg tells of his willingness to befriend Lewis Hamilton
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Lewis Hamilton may decide to take a leaf from Michael Schumacher’s book if he opts to walk away from Mercedes and Formula One as the dust continues to settle on last year’s hugely controversial Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The 37-year-old is said to be mulling over his immediate future in the sport after losing trust in the FIA as a result of the events that unfolded at the Yas Marina Circuit in December.
Hamilton was cruelly denied a record-breaking eighth Drivers’ Championship title in dramatic fashion after Max Verstappen was gifted the chance to pip his Mercedes rival thanks to a late safety car period.
Race director Michael Masi handed the Dutchman a golden opportunity to fight back when he was allowed to move through the field after only the five lapped cars between himself and Hamilton were asked to overtake the safety car.
Verstappen went on to force his way ahead of Hamilton during the one-lap shootout that followed to clinch his maiden title under hugely controversial circumstances.
The beaten Mercedes driver is said to be waiting on the results of an FIA investigation into the conclusion of the race before settling on whether or not to return ahead of the upcoming season.
However, the findings are not expected to be announced until just two days before the curtain-raising Bahrain Grand Prix in March, leaving Hamilton with a big decision to make with regards to his participation.
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He could opt to lay down a huge marker by standing firm and refusing to commit to the sport in the form of a sabbatical before returning at a later date.
Hamilton would be following in the footsteps of fellow seven-time champion Schumacher, who walked away from F1 at 37 years of age back in 2006, in such a scenario.
The mercurial German won every Drivers’ Championship between 2000 and 2004 before losing out at the hands of Fernando Alonso over the next two seasons.
He then decided to retire for a period of four years before eventually returning to the grid with Mercedes in 2010.
Schumacher never reached the heights of old during his two-year spell with the Silver Arrows, but it could be a different story for Hamilton if he decides to replicate his predecessor’s career path.
The Brit is arguably at the peak of his powers in spite of his recent setback in Abu Dhabi and was previously tipped to stave off retirement until he reaches his 40s by Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff.
“Yes, absolutely, I have no doubt about that,” Wolff told reporters back in May when quizzed on whether Hamilton is capable of driving at the highest level for at least another three years.
“He is so disciplined that in a way it is inspiring. As long as Lewis continues to look after himself mentally and physically, continues to develop cognitively, then he can go on for much longer.”
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It remains to be seen whether Hamilton will be taking up his usual place in the cockpit when the five red lights go out in Bahrain to kick off the new season in just over two months’ time.
He will surely be desperate to clinch an unprecedented eighth Drivers’ Championship title before calling it a day in order to establish himself as the most successful F1 driver in history.
It is the only high-profile milestone left for Hamilton to reach after smashing many of Schumacher’s other records during his 14-year spell on the grid.
However, it seems likely that a temporary break could be among the options on the table if he decides to call the FIA’s bluff by stepping away from the sport over the coming weeks.
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