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Lewis Hamilton will snub F1 retirement and come back ‘even stronger’ – Mercedes’ Stoffel Vandoorne

Lewis Hamilton will snub F1 retirement and come back ‘even stronger’ – Mercedes’ Stoffel Vandoorne

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LEWIS HAMILTON will be back better than ever in 2022 according to Mercedes’ Stoffel Vandoorne.

Mercedes‘ reserve driver Stoffel Vandoorne is confident Lewis Hamilton will “come back even stronger” in 2022 despite some fears he could retire from Formula One altogether before the new season.

Silver Arrows team principal Toto Wolff sparked some panic when he said last month: “I would very much hope Lewis continues racing because he is the greatest driver of all time.”

Hamilton, 36, is still digesting the disappointment of missing out on his eighth F1 Driver’s Championship in such contentious circumstances at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in mid-December.

Red Bull rival Max Verstappen was instead the victor courtesy of a last-lap overtake after a safety car, which came after Hamilton had built a healthy lead out front despite driving on heavily worn tyres.

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Hamilton has not posted on social media since the race, even despite being knighted by the Prince of Wales at Windsor Castle.

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That, among the comments made by Wolff and others outside of Mercedes, has sparked speculation the seven-time world champion could call it quits.

Yet Mercedes’ Formula E racer and reserve driver Vandoorne, who has not competed in F1 since picking up 12 points for McLaren in 2018, expects Hamilton to return to the grid in 2022.

And the Belgian is also expecting the Briton, who snubbed the FIA’s end-of-season prize-giving gala in Paris, to have the fire in his belly after such a frustrating finish to the previous season.

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Speaking to RTBF, Vandoorne said: “Lewis didn’t post anything on social media after the race and I think he must have felt very bad that he lost this way on the last lap, when he had everything under control and didn’t put a foot wrong during the race.

“He will definitely have a hard time accepting what happened in Abu Dhabi, but he is still so keen to push himself and do better that I am sure he will use all these events as motivation to come back even stronger.”

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He added: “Lewis had done a great race and so did the team through their strategy. Everything was perfect and then there is this decision, it changes the result of the race and therefore the championship. It’s very hard to take.

“And then on the last lap, it was clear nothing was in Hamilton’s favour – he had old tyres against Verstappen with new tyres. Lewis didn’t stand a chance and in my opinion it wasn’t really a race at the end.”

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Vandoorne believes race director Michael Masi should have allowed an extra lap in Abu Dhabi but thinks Mercedes ultimately have themselves to blame for losing out on the title.

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He added: “I just think race control didn’t want the grand prix to end under the safety car for the final decision of a championship like this, but there are rules to follow after a safety car.

“They let the lapped cars through, but they should have done an extra lap and they didn’t do it.

“So, yes, in terms of that scenario I think Lewis was robbed, but the title was not lost on the last lap of the last race.

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“Let’s remember at the beginning of the season Mercedes were under-performing and lacking pace against Red Bull, who took advantage of that to open up a gap.”

The 2022 F1 season gets underway in Bahrain on the weekend of March 18-20, with each team expected to launch their 2022 cars from mid-February.

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