Johannesburg - When it comes to Lewis Hamilton, it very much seems as if Marvel villain ‘Thanos’ has collected all the infinity stones, wielded the infinity gauntlet, snapped his fingers, and blipped the seven-time world champion into oblivion.
Indeed, it has been 47 days since he lost the world drivers’ championship to Max Verstappen at the controversial Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, and yet there has been barely a squeak, murmur, whisper, or disgruntled mumble from the great Brit.
His last public appearance, by all accounts, was at his investiture ceremony at Windsor Castle on December 15 where he was officially knighted by the Prince of Wales.
The last time Hamilton posted – and for a sportsperson he tends to do so regularly - on his Twitter account was December 11, a day before the final race of the season, while there has been no official communication from Mercedes regarding their driver.
To use the cliche, the silence has been deafening.
The 37-year-old is unhappy, that much is clear, with the perceived injustice of the Abu Dhabi GP where he dominated the race, only to lose out on victory and the championship after some questionable decisions by race control in the dying moments of the event. As such, the F1 driver’s future remains up in the air, with some serious doubts that we will not see Hamilton return to the sport.
Meanwhile, the window for his decision is closing fast.
In a fortnight, the pre-season begins with the unveiling of this year’s cars – starting with Aston Martin on February 10, while the Silver Arrows are set to showcase the W13 on February 13. Testing begins on February 23 at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya; and you’d expect if Hamilton is to participate this year in F1, he will have to be present at both these events.
Moreover, the inquest into the Abu Dhabi GP will only be released the weekend of the opening race in Bahrain mid-March, meaning that if Hamilton is waiting on that report’s finding to aid in his decision-making on whether he stays or leaves, the FIA have called out his bluff.
Elsewhere, Hamilton is being implored by former drivers, champions and even rival team principals to remain and challenge for top honours this year. On the flip side, there is now also a healthy debate online regarding who will replace him.
Admittedly I am not a huge Hamilton fan, but even so one can realise the need for him to be involved in F1 this year.
Right now, I believe he is doing a bit of disservice to his own supporters, while supplying ammunition to those who love to hate him. This elongated tempertantrum, a vloermoer if ever I've seen one by a professional athlete, is quite frankly rather unnecessary.
The current optics of his silence is not translating well for a multiple world champion. Rather, it is coming across as being petulant and self-indulgent, with the sense that Hamilton is unable to deal with this set-back, brush himself off and reset for a new challenge.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say it is tainting a stellar, record-breaking career but it certainly has me reassessing his legacy in terms of his fortitude to overcome adversity.
Whether Michael Masi was at fault or not on December 12, Hamilton must either raise above the controversy and himself, or communicate his intentions as soon as possible.
I dearly hope we do hear something in the near future from Hamilton, and much like the returning heroes of a blip, I believe if he chooses to stay, he will return stronger.