Lewis Hamilton ‘not 100 per cent’ ready to return as FIA president makes retirement remark

Mercedes boss hopes ‘robbed’ Lewis Hamilton will continue racing

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Newly-elected FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem has privately spoken with Lewis Hamilton in recent weeks and admits the British racing superstar isn’t “100 per cent ready” to return to the sport. It’s now been three weeks since the controversial season finale in Abu Dhabi when Hamilton heartbreakingly missed out on his eighth world championship.

Max Verstappen had been the overriding favourite just a few weeks before until Hamilton won three consecutive races to put the two championship contenders level on points for the final Grand Prix.

And the 36-year-old dominated the race for the most part with Red Bull struggling to find an answer to Hamilton’s pace.

That was until the final few laps when Nicholas Latifi’s crash brought out a safety car, which allowed Verstappen to pit for fresh soft tyres.

Controversy followed when Michael Masi allowed the five lapped cars in between Hamilton and Verstappen to pass heading into the final lap, to the dismay and anger of Toto Wolff.

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On fresher tyres, Verstappen eventually made his move on Hamilton before taking the chequered flag for his first world championship.

Hamilton was gracious in defeat, going up to congratulate his rival, but has been silent across all social media platforms since.

He also skipped the FIA’s annual end of season prize-giving gala where Verstappen was handed his championship title.

There have been some suggestions in recent weeks that Hamilton could rip up his Mercedes contract, which has two more years to run, and retire from the sport altogether.

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And Ben Sulayem, who just last month took over as FIA president from Jean Todt, admits to having several talks with Hamilton with the Briton potentially set to be punished for refusing to attend the FIA ceremony.

“I sent him messages, yes,” he told Marca.

“I think he is not 100 per cent ready yet and I understand his position, but there are also rules that must be accepted by all drivers .

“For me there is no particular team or driver, out of respect for the integrity of the FIA.

“But I cannot judge until I have all the data and the first thing on my agenda is to thoroughly analyse what happened in Abu Dhabi.

“In the end we are all human and the stress and pressure were there, so I think it will all work out.

“You have to look more to the future than to the past.”

When pressed further on whether he believes Hamilton will retire, the FIA president said: “No, I don’t think so, they are rumours.

“Has he declared that he is not going to drive next year? Exactly, no.

“When you are a driver you speak for yourself and not what others say about you.

“I trust that this is not the case, Lewis is an important part of the sport and of F1, his achievements, Verstappen is there … I am sure we will have a very exciting F1 season next season.”

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