LEWIS HAMILTON’s threat to quit F1 should NOT be dismissed as a stunt, according to McLaren CEO Zak Brown.
Hamilton is “disillusioned” after the controversial end to the Abu Dhabi GP last month with Merc boss Toto Wolff unsure if the Brit will ever return to the sport.
Hamilton was livid after FIA Race Director Michael Masi failed to apply the rules regarding the safety car, which resulted in Max Verstappen winning the race and the title.
Hamilton has since gone to ground and not spoken about the incident and Brown says he wouldn’t be shocked to see him quit F1 altogether.
He said: “I wouldn’t be shocked if Lewis stopped, so I don’t think anyone should take for granted that he’s coming back.
“It is just my personal opinion he’s going to [come back] but I don’t think we should discount or not recognise his frustration, his anger.
“Maybe he hasn’t made a decision yet. Maybe he is taking time to make that decision because once it’s made, it is made.
“So I don’t think we should rule it out or make light of it [him quitting].”
It is understood that Hamilton is awaiting the outcome of the FIA’s report into the events surrounding Masi’s controversial decisions in Abu Dhabi.
The FIA have given themselves a deadline of just TWO days before the season-opener in Bahrain on March 20th to publish their report.
And while Brown says he wouldn’t be surprised to see Hamilton walk away, he personally thinks he will return to fight for another title.
He added: “I think he still has a burning desire to race and that will ultimately drive his decision.
“Sure, he’s very angry but I think racecar drivers want to race. And I think he’s a fighter.
“I think he’ll want to come back and try and win an eighth championship. I don’t think he’s ready to retire because once you hang it up, you hang it up.
“I don’t think he’s ready to hang it up. And I don’t think he’s going to let an incident put him into retirement.”
The focus is on the FIA’s handling of their investigation and what they do with Masi, who faces claims his position is now untenable.
But Brown is confident incoming FIA President, Mohammed ben Sulayem, will make the right changes and also says a professional body of race stewards is now required.
He said: “I have a lot of confidence in Mohammed. I have spent a good amount of time with him and I believe he will be a change agent where things need to be changed and improved upon.
“He also consults. He’s already done the rounds with the teams talking to us about what we think, so I think he’s going to be a very good President.
“We can be focused on Abu Dhabi but if we look at the last couple of years of the variety of incidents. Abu Dhabi was just one of them.
“Let’s not forget that the teams had a big say in how the sport is policed and the rules and now I think we find ourselves in a situation where on track activities are over regulated.
“I remember Niki Lauda once saying, ‘just let the drivers sort it out. That’s what we used to do’.
“I think there needs to be somewhere in between with more leniency on letting them race.
“To have people bending the ear of the referee, and lots of them live, makes it pretty difficult to make decisions when you’ve got a lot of noise.
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“It’s probably good for TV that the mic was open, but we saw it created some habits and some decisions that maybe weren’t the right decisions.
“Going forward, having more full-time stewards definitely seems to be the right way to go.”
Meanwhile, Mercedes have confirmed they will launch their challenger for the 2022 season on February 18th.