Lewis Hamilton’s mysterious start to the new year took another twist on Tuesday after he pulled out of his opening Formula One work commitment of 2018.
Hamilton was due to appear at an event in Geneva for IWC – the Swiss watchmaker which is a sponsor for Mercedes – alongside his team-mate Valtteri Bottas. But while Bottas attended the function in Switzerland, Hamilton was nowhere to be seen.
A spokesperson for Mercedes told Press Association Sport that Hamilton informed them on Monday he would be unable to travel after falling unwell.
The gala was set to mark Hamilton’s first public outing after provoking criticism for comments made about his nephew wearing a dress.
Hamilton issued an apology for the video he posted to Instagram on Boxing Day, in which he told his nephew “boys don’t wear princess dresses”, but subsequently removed all of his posts, firstly on Instagram and then Twitter.
He has a combined following of 11 million across both platforms.
Hamilton ended his exile from Instagram to post three IWC sponsored videos in the wake of his withdrawal from the event on Tuesday.
“Wishing my IWC Watches family a great event in Geneva,” Hamilton wrote. “Loving the Jubilee 150th Anniversary Collection.”
He later posted a picture from a snowboarding trip, accompanied with the post: “2018. A chance to revisit every goal, every challenge, every dream.
“A chance to be driven, hardworking, positive and everything you want to be, all over again. I will never stop. I have no finish line. Join me this year in reaching beyond your wildest dreams.”
Hamilton, who turned 33 earlier this month, is out of contract with Mercedes at the end of this season, and has made no secret of his desire to forge a career in fashion or music once his motor racing days are over.
Mercedes expect Hamilton to sign a new two-year extension and are in negotiations with him over a new contract, but the team’s executive director Toto Wolff admitted last month that the four-time world champion remains undecided on his long-term future.
“He is a free spirit and he wants to keep his options open as to whether he stays a racing driver in 2019 or becomes a fashion entrepreneur, ” Wolff told BBC Sport. “It would be a massive hit (if he leaves) but you move on and the next generation will get a chance.
“Among those kids there is someone who could follow in his footsteps. He sees the records, but I am not sure if he wants to commit to another four or five seasons in Formula One.”