Red Bull team advisor Helmut Marko has claimed that the silence maintained by Lewis Hamilton after last season's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix led directly to the removal of Race Director Michael Masi.
Hamilton withdrew from social media and public view over the winter break to spend time with his family, and has since admitted that F1 was "the last thing" he wanted to talk about.
Meanwhile, the Formula 1 world was left questioning whether the seven-time World Champion may walk away from the sport after a number of controversial decisions - taken by Masi in Abu Dhabi - led to him missing out on an eighth title at the hands of Max Verstappen.
Masi was later removed from his position, with the FIA stating that he would be offered a new position within the organisation. Eduardo Freitas and Niels Wittich will take over the Race Director role, and will be supported by Herbie Blash and a team of stewards likened to football's Video Assistant Referees.
The plan, set out by new FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem last month, hopes to reform refereeing and race direction at the sport's highest level following a detailed analysis of Abu Dhabi's events.
But Marko believes that it was the silent actions of Hamilton that led to the removal of Masi, with the Austrian claiming that the 37-year-old "wanted to show his dissatisfaction with the situation."
Marko says Hamilton wanted to show 'dissatisfaction'
In conversation with the German broadcaster RTL, Marko said: "There were clear indications that Hamilton would not stop because there was no movement in the driver market.
"If Hamilton had informed Mercedes that he would take a step back, they would have started looking for a replacement en masse. However, that was not the case. not noticeable."
He continued: "By his silence, he only wanted to show his dissatisfaction with the situation and the decisions. Part of that behaviour subsequently also led to Masi being removed from his role.
"I don't think it's right. You have to look at his performances over the years. If Masi had everything they are going to enter now at his disposal, it would have been easier for him to decide, a video referee and an advisor by his side."
Marko added: "Michael is now being sacrificed for that."
Hamilton: I always evaluate my options
Shedding light on his time away from Formula 1 during Barcelona testing, Hamilton told reporters including RacingNews365.com: "As soon as I went away, I switched off completely. I don't generally speak to anyone then. I wasn't on my phone through the whole break, I was just with my family.
"It was generally more about being present, living in the moment, creating memories. We know that sometimes in life we get so focused and so stuck into things like work that we forget to do those things.
"Naturally, I think at the end of any season, probably for those that are around my age, of course you're thinking about the future, you're thinking about what are the next steps and what are the right steps to take and what's right for you in terms of overall happiness.
"So I always evaluate all my options but I did make a commitment to the team earlier on in the season and, ultimately, I love what I do. I love being a part of a team."
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