Seven-times Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton broke his silence on Saturday with his first social media post since last year’s season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The Briton, who hadn’t spoken publicly since a broadcast interview immediately after he lost the title in controversial circumstances to Red Bull rival Max Verstappen, put up a post on his Instagram account after a near two-month hiatus.
The 37-year-old Mercedes driver uploaded a photograph of himself at what appeared to be the Grand Canyon in the U.S. with the caption; “I’ve been gone. Now I’m back!”
Hamilton, winner of a record 103 races, had been on course to clinch an unprecedented eighth title with victory in last year’s season-ending race at the Yas Marina track.
But an ad-hoc change to the safety car rules by race director Michael Masi in an attempt to create a last-lap showdown between the title rivals gave Verstappen, on fresher tyres, the opportunity to make the decisive pass.
Hamilton did not speak to the media after being knighted at Windsor Castle on Dec. 15 and failed to show for the governing FIA’s prize-giving in Paris a day later, risking punishment since turning up is mandatory for the top three in the championship.
His silence also fuelled speculation surrounding his future, with Mercedes boss Toto Wolff on Dec. 16 describing Hamilton, who has a contract until the end of 2023, as “disillusioned”.
The Briton has reportedly been waiting on the outcome of the governing FIA’s investigation into the Abu Dhabi race, in particular Masi’s role as race director, to make a decision on his future.
But the body last month said that decisions resulting from its analysis will only be announced at its World Motor Sport Council on March 18 in Bahrain, the day of Friday’s practice session for the season-opening race in the Gulf island Kingdom.
Mercedes, who are set to launch their new car on Feb. 18, have been posting Hamilton-themed content on their social media accounts. On Friday, the team put up a post captioned, “44 days to go, another day closer to lights out in Bahrain” with an image of the number 44, Hamilton’s race number, on one of the Briton’s earlier cars.
(Reporting by Abhishek Takle; editing by Ed Osmond)