Lewis Hamilton is facing fresh scrutiny over his future after he refused to confirm that he would see out the remaining 18 months of his Mercedes deal.
Hamilton’s comments came after he moved to within a single point of Sebastian Vettel in the race for the Formula One title by virtue of dominating the British Grand Prix.
Here, we look at the questions surrounding Hamilton’s future, and whether the 32-year-old could do the unthinkable and turn his back on the sport.
What is the state of play?
Hamilton has 18 months remaining on his three-year contract with Mercedes. But the Briton, speaking after his emphatic Silverstone victory, said he will consider his future over the winter break.
What are his options?
Hamilton could choose to retire from the sport, leave Mercedes and join Ferrari – with Vettel’s future beyond this year also uncertain – or stick with the team with which he has won two championships, and potentially three, should he triumph again this season.
So, why is Hamilton being so vague about his future?
This is the third occasion in which Hamilton has publicly hinted that he could retire. Hamilton speaks of his admiration for Mercedes – on Sunday night he paid tribute to the team’s catering staff, engineers, mechanics, his personal physio Angela Cullen, and the team’s head of communications, Bradley Lord. But Hamilton, for whatever reason, could not bring himself to say he will honour his current deal. Has his head been turned by a career swansong with the most famous team of all, Ferrari? Or could he even take a sabbatical to pursue other ambitions outside of the sport?
What is happening with Vettel?
Vettel is out of contract with Ferrari at the end of the year, and as Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said on Sunday night: “Sebastian holds the key to the driver market.” Vettel is expected to remain with the Italian team, but it would also make sense for Mercedes – a German team – to sign Germany’s leading driver. Mercedes boss Toto Wolff attended Vettel’s 30th birthday party in Switzerland earlier this month, and has also said he cannot rule out a move for the four-time world champion.
Could Vettel team up with Hamilton at Mercedes then?
Mercedes still harbour the scars of Hamilton’s toxic rivalry with Nico Rosberg, and they would not want to risk a repeat scenario. One theory is that Mercedes may try to lure Vettel when Hamilton’s contract expires at the end of next season with the Briton, should he still be on the grid, moving in the other direction.
Will Hamilton be in Formula One next year?
Hamilton often contradicts himself. Ahead of last month’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix he hinted he could leave the sport at the end of the year, only to claim later that weekend that he could race on until he is 40. But after alluding to retirement again at Silverstone, it has to be an idea running through his mind. He will eclipse Michael Schumacher’s pole position record with two further qualifying triumphs, while a fourth title will see him decorated as the standalone greatest British driver of all time. Could that be enough for Hamilton to say ‘good night, and good luck’?