The Formula One world champion is known for his active social media presence, sometimes at inappropriate times. File photo: Luca Bruno / AP

Brackley, Northamptonshire - Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton has pulled out of his first sponsor engagement of 2018 but reappeared on social media after wiping his accounts clean over the Christmas break.

A Mercedes spokesman said Hamilton had been feeling unwell and was unable to travel to the event in Switzerland hosted by watch company IWC, adding that the team sponsor had been notified of his absence already on Monday. Mercedes' other driver Valtteri Bottas attended.

Hamilton later posted a picture on his Instagram account, which is followed by 5.7 million people, of himself standing on a snowy peak with a snowboard.

"2018. A chance to revisit every goal, every challenge, every dream," he told his followers. "A chance to be driven, hard working, 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."

No explanation 

It was the only post on what had become a blank slate after he drew condemnation for comments made over Christmas about his young nephew wearing a pink dress.

"Boys don't wear princess dresses," Hamiton had said in a video on Instagram that he apologised for and took down the next day. Hamilton, or his media team, then proceeded to remove reams of content and photographs from his feeds, giving no explanation for his actions.

The F1 world champion has the biggest following of any F1 driver on social media, boasting also 5.26 million on Twitter, who have been kept up to speed in the past about his celebrity lifestyle and fashion tastes.

Formula One's owner Liberty Media, which took over last year, has adopted a "fan first" approach with social media a major plank in its strategy.