Lewis Hamilton will not decide whether to return to Formula 1 this season until he sees the results of an inquiry into the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Hamilton is “disillusioned” with F1, his Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff has said, as a result of last year’s title-deciding race.
Hamilton lost the championship to Red Bull’s Max Verstappen after FIA race director Michael Masi did not apply the rules correctly in a late safety-car period.
Insiders say Hamilton has lost trust in the governing body as a result.
The team and Hamilton are said to be aligned on the issue and waiting to see what action the FIA takes to address the matters raised by the Abu Dhabi race.
The FIA has launched an inquiry into the events at Yas Marina and is aware both of Hamilton’s unhappiness and that it has a big task on its hands to win back the seven-time champion’s confidence.
New president Mohammed Ben Sulayem has said he has contacted Hamilton since his election five days after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
“I don’t think he’s 100% ready to respond right now,” Ben Sulayem said last week. “We don’t blame him. I understand his position.”
Lewis Hamilton had dominated the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and was on course to win a record-breaking eighth world drivers’ title when the safety car was sent out when Nicholas Latifi crashed his Williams with five laps to go.
Red Bull pitted Max Verstappen to fit fresh tyres in the hope the race would restart before the chequered flag, but Mercedes felt they could not do the same with Hamilton because it would have meant the Briton losing the lead with no certainty the race would restart.
Micheal Masi then failed to apply the rules correctly in two different ways.
Normal protocol is to allow either all the lapped cars dotted through the field to un-lap themselves so they do not interfere with racing on the restart, or leave all in place.
But Masi allowed only some of the lapped cars in between the leaders to un-lap themselves – sending the five cars between Hamilton and Verstappen through so they were not in the way, but leaving all the others in place, including the two cars between Verstappen and third-placed Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari.
In addition, Masi ignored a rule that dictates that the race restarts at the end of the following lap after the lapped cars have been removed, and restarted it a lap early.
Michael Masi has been Formula 1 race director since March 2019.
It has been a month since the Abu Dhabi race. But when asked about the timing of the inquiry’s findings or what matters it will seek to address, the FIA said it was not yet ready to answer queries.
The FIA admitted in a statement last month that the events of Abu Dhabi were “tarnishing the image” of F1 but also said that it had “generated significant misunderstanding and reactions from F1 teams, drivers and fans”.
Announcing the inquiry, the FIA said it would be done in time for “any identified meaningful feedback and conclusions to be made before the beginning of the 2022 season”.
The first of two pre-season tests starts on 23 February, while the opening race is in Bahrain on 18-20 March.