Berne Ecclestone’s view that Lewis Hamilton would be wary of risking his reputation against George Russell by returning to Formula One next season is inaccurate, according to reports. Hamilton is currently mulling over whether to walk away from the sport in the wake of his crushing Drivers’ Championship defeat at the hands of Max Verstappen at last month’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The 24-year-old became the first Dutchman to clinch the individual honours at the Yas Marina Circuit after crossing the finish line ahead of his Mercedes rival under hugely controversial circumstances.
He was offered a golden chance to fight back against Hamilton when he was allowed to move through the field after only the five lapped cars between the two leaders were asked to overtake the safety car during the closing stages of the race.
Verstappen went on to get ahead of the Brit during the one-lap shootout that followed to seal his maiden Drivers’ Championship triumph in dramatic fashion.
The result sparked plenty of post-race controversy as a result of the widely-held belief that all lapped cars would be required to un-lap themselves in such a scenario.
Hamilton has maintained a prolonged social media silence in the wake of his defeat in Abu Dhabi and is said to be considering a shock exit from Mercedes after losing trust in the FIA due to their handling of proceedings.
JUST IN: Christian Horner admits Max Verstappen ‘got lucky’ in Abu Dhabi
Ecclestone recently suggested that Hamilton could struggle to fight for a record-breaking eighth title if he decides to return to the grid this year, insisting that Russell could pose a bigger threat to Verstappen’s defence in his debut campaign with Mercedes.
“Lewis could only lose in 2022,” the 91-year-old told Swiss outlet Blick.
“Who knows how the new cars will reposition the field? With George Russell he would have an ambitious team-mate, of whom I am not as convinced as many experts, by the way.
“And then we don’t forget about Verstappen. With him, Hamilton has finally found an equal opponent after many years.”
However, it seems as though Hamilton is not concerning himself with the possibility of being found out by Russell as he considers his future ahead of the upcoming season.
This suggestion has already been firmly dismissed by a number of insiders in spite of Ecclestone’s claims, according to The Telegraph.
Hamilton is said to be keen on learning the FIA’s findings from their investigation into what happened in Abu Dhabi before making a concrete decision on whether or not to return to the grid this year.
The results are set to be announced just two days before the start of the new campaign, though, leaving the Mercedes man with a big call to make over the coming weeks.
FOLLOW OUR NEW DAILY EXPRESS SPORT INSTAGRAM PAGE
He previously insisted that he will call it quits if he eventually loses the motivation to keep going, suggesting that a drastic outcome could soon be on the cards if he fails to move on from his unsuccessful title bid in the near future.
“There’s going to be a point in which I’m going to want to move on to do different things and I guess it just always comes down to how I never would do anything half-arsed,” Hamilton told The Race back in July.
“I’m not going to do it at 80 per cent [or] 70 per cent and just trundle along. There are people that can do that, I’m only here to win.
“If there’s ever a point where I feel that I don’t want to commit the time or the effort, the mental energy that it takes, that will be the time for me to stop.”