By Adrian Mann
What Lewis Hamilton experienced at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was real and blatant injustice. It’s not that he was on the receiving end of an unsporting move by a driver, he was basically cheated out of the race win and the world title by Formula 1’s governing body, the FIA.
Now, throughout his life, Lewis has encountered injustice, covert racism, open racism and everything in-between. But you never get used to it, you shouldn’t get used to it. When we are faced with blatant open injustice, that we can do nothing about, it hurts us, deeply, to our very soul.
The best evidence for this is what we saw at Abu Dhabi. All of us fans and spectators were not directly hurt by the injustice that happened, but witnessing it in its most blatant form, we all felt pain (except fans of the driver who benefitted from said injustice, of course).
Taking this into account, it’s not so strange that Toto Wolff said Lewis Hamilton and himself have been disillusioned by what had happened. Wolff went even a step further and when asked directly if Lewis will return in 2022, he planted a seed of doubt by saying he “would very much hope Lewis continues racing because he is the greatest driver of all time”. He then added together they will have to “overcome the pain that was caused upon him on Sunday”, before a return is possible.
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Of course, nobody ever said Lewis will not return, but the media took this statement as an indication that a retirement is an option for the Briton.
What fuelled the fire further is the fact that Lewis didn’t make any statements after his post Abu Dhabi GP track interviews, and he only made two public appearances, one at Windsor Castle to receive his knighthood, and the other at Mercedes’ HQ in Brackley, to celebrate the team’s record-breaking eighth Constructors’ Championship and to say goodbye to Valtteri Bottas, who will not be with the team next year.
While he did give a speech to Mercedes F1 team members in Brackley, he made no public statements at either event. He also missed the FIA Prize-Giving Gala where Max Verstappen was crowned as the 2021 F1 world champion. His social media accounts have been silent, his last posts were made after the Abu Dhabi GP Qualifying. And now, he has even unfollowed everybody on his Instagram account, a move that has brought more concern to some of his fans.
Even Lewis’ brother Nicolas, the day after the unfortunate events of Abu Dhabi, said Lewis was not responding to him, and he decided to give him some alone time.
So what does this all mean? Well, it means nothing in particular. It could mean that Lewis has been hurt by the injustice that he faced, as were most sports fans who don’t have any ‘skin in the game’. It could mean, as Wolff said, that he needs to work through the events and decide what is best for him. It’s not easy to return to a sport that has unjustly deprived you of the deserved prize for your hard work and sacrifice.
Does this mean that Lewis could retire from F1 in 2022? It can certainly mean that, but there are no indications that he is even thinking about this. We only have Toto’s words, and he never directly said it was an option, in fact he said Lewis’ “heart will say ‘I need to continue’ because he is at the peak of his game”.
The Italian branch of Motorsport.com has reported that Lewis informed Mercedes that he intends to return next year. The whole thing should be taken with a grain of salt, because their ‘inside sources’ turned out to be incorrect on several occasions. The fact is that Lewis might not even need to say anything, he never even said he was thinking about quitting. He has two more years on his contract with Mercedes, and there is no indication that he will not honour them.
The probable reality is that Lewis needs some time to process everything that has happened, as do we all. Lewis faced injustice, we all faced injustice through him and it leaves its scars. But in the face of injustice we must never fold, we must rise above it and sometimes kick it in the teeth. Like Lewis’ favourite poem by Maya Angelou says:
“You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.”
Lewis Hamilton will rise.
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