Lewis Hamilton: Toto Wolff says he can give no assurances British star will continue in F1 after Abu Dhabi pain
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff says Lewis Hamilton and the team have been left "disillusioned" by events in Abu Dhabi and that they will "never get over" season finale; Hamilton signed a new two-year contract with Mercedes earlier in the season
Last Updated: 17/12/21 3:53pm
Toto Wolff says he can give no assurances Lewis Hamilton will continue in F1 after Sunday's controversial ending to the title-deciding Abu Dhabi GP.
Mercedes team principal Wolff says Hamilton and the team have been left "disillusioned" by events of the season finale.
The Austrian "would very much hope Lewis continues racing" but also suggested Hamilton "will never overcome the pain and the distress that was caused on Sunday".
Max Verstappen, on fresh tyres, overtook Hamilton on the race's final lap to claim the race win and world title after a controversial Safety Car restart procedure.
On Thursday, Mercedes announced they had withdrawn their appeal against the race result, but remain deeply dismayed about how the race played out.
- FIA issues statement on the events of Abu Dhabi
- Martin Brundle column: Verstappen a worthy champion...but final proved F1 must change
- Q&A: What happened in the controversial finish to the F1 season?
"Lewis and I are disillusioned at the moment," said Wolff. "We are not disillusioned of the sport, we love the sport with every bone in our body and we love it because the stopwatch never lies.
"But if we break that fundamental principle of sporting fairness and authenticity of the sport, that suddenly the stopwatch doesn't become relevant, because we are exposed to random decision making, it is clear that you start to question if all the work that you have been putting in - all the sweat, tears and blood - can actually be demonstrated in terms of bringing the best possible performances on track, because it can be taken away randomly.
"It's going to take a long time for us to digest what has happened on Sunday. I don't think we will ever overcome it, that's not possible.
"And certainly not him (Hamilton) as a driver. I would very much hope the two of us and the rest of the team we can work through the events... But he will never overcome the pain and the distress that was caused on Sunday."
Hamilton signed a new two-year contract with Mercedes earlier in the season.
Asked directly whether Hamilton, who turns 37 in January, would be back next year, Wolff indicated that was not a certainty.
"I would very much hope Lewis continues racing because he is the greatest driver of all time," he said.
"As a racer his heart will say I need to continue because he's at the peak of his game. But we have to overcome the pain that was caused upon him on Sunday. He is a man with clear values."
Wolff said both he and Hamilton will not attend Thursday night's FIA prize-giving ceremony. Mercedes chief technical officer James Allison will be in Paris to collect the trophy for the team's record-extending eighth Constructors' Championship.
"I won't be there because of my loyalty to Lewis and because of my own personal integrity," he said.
'We were deeply wronged on Sunday'
After talks with Mercedes this week, the FIA has committed to conducting a review of the events of Abu Dhabi in order to learn lessons and make changes for 2022 after controversy concerning the Safety Car.
"We will hold them accountable for the actions because we cannot continue in a sport that is meant to be sport followed by entertainment and not the other way around," said Wolff.
"That we are held ransom by ad-hoc decisions in every field, be it technical or sporting, and therefore there needs to be clear measures in place before the start of the season so every driver, every team and the fans understand what is on and what is not on."
Wolff made clear "we believe we had a very strong case" to appeal but ultimately they made the "heavy-hearted" decision not to proceed to the FIA's own International Court of Appeal "because we wouldn't have gotten the result back".
"If you look at it from the legal side, if it would have been judged in a regular court you are almost guaranteed that we would have won," he said.
"But the problem with the ICA is the way it's structured, the FIA can't really mark their own homework, and there is a difference between being right and maintaining justice. There is a lesson to be learned, 'how can we make sure that going forward in situations like that the right decisions are being taken?'."
Wolff confirmed Hamilton had been involved with every step of the process since the aftermath of Sunday's race.
"Neither him nor us want to win a world championship in the courtroom," the Mercedes team boss added. "But we were deeply wronged on Sunday and it wasn't just a case of a bad call; it was a freestyle reading of the rules and it left Lewis like a sitting duck.
"It was tremendously hard for him and us as a team to withdraw the appeal because we were wronged."
FIA race director Michael Masi has come under heavy criticism in the aftermath of the finale and Wolff acknowledged "the race director is certainly under bigger pressure and some of that is due to our own faults".
But asked if he would seek talks with the Australian, Wolff said: "I'm not interested in having a conversation with Michael Masi. The decisions that have been taken in the last four minutes of this race have robbed Lewis Hamilton of a deserved world championship."
Mercedes withdraw Abu Dhabi appeal
Mercedes have withdrawn their appeal against the controversial finish to the title-deciding Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
In their first comment about the events of last Sunday, Mercedes said they left Abu Dhabi in "disbelief of what we had just witnessed" in regards to the Safety Car procedure and lodged an appeal after the race "in the interest of sporting fairness".
The FIA, F1's governing body, issued a statement on Wednesday night in which they promised to conduct an "analysis and clarification exercise" on what unfolded, together with teams and drivers, to learn lessons for 2022. They also described the fallout from the controversy as "tarnishing the image of the championship".
Mercedes said that "together with Lewis, we have deliberated carefully over how to respond" to Sunday's race.
Having been in "constructive dialogue" with the FIA and F1, Mercedes said they welcomed the governing body's steps and now would work with stakeholders to "build a better Formula 1 - for every team and every fan who loves this sport as much as we do".
Mercedes also made clear they would "hold the FIA accountable for this process".