As Lewis Hamilton maintains radio silence in the aftermath of the 2021 season finale in Abu Dhabi, his team boss has explained that his mental resilience isn't in question due to experiences of racism he encountered on his rise to the top of motorsport.
Hamilton was beaten on the final lap of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, after a late Safety Car closed up the field and allowed Red Bull to take a gamble on switching second-placed Max Verstappen to a fresh set of tyres.
With lapped cars cleared out of the way by FIA Race Director Michael Masi, Verstappen attacked and passed Hamilton on the final lap. Clearly stunned by what had happened, Hamilton gave a short pre-podium interview but disappeared from public view almost immediately after the podium.
Not participating in any media interviews, Hamilton was in the UK four days later to receive his knighthood, but deigned not to appear at the FIA Prize-Giving Gala in Paris. He has unfollowed everyone on his social media channels, hasn't posted any status updates, and maintained his silence through his 37th birthday on Friday.
Rumours have swirled that he may choose not to return to race in F1 in 2022, but Wolff has said that Hamilton's mental strength isn't in doubt and pointed to some of his heart-breaking experiences in his past.
"As a child he was insulted on the go-kart track," Wolff told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung.
"White parents forbade their children to interact with him; that definitely left big scars on him too.
"For him, racing was the valve to show everyone, and it still is."
"Hamilton is the greatest driver of all time"
Speaking to media in the days after the Abu Dhabi defeat, Wolff said the key task of this winter is to separate the achievement of winning a record eighth Constructors' Championship while licking the wounds of defeat in the Drivers'.
"We are trying to compartmentalise the anger on the outcome of the Formula 1 Drivers' Championship and, on the other side, [celebrate] the pride and joy of having achieved something unprecedented and [that] definitely needs to be celebrated," he told media, including RacingNews365.com.
As for whether Hamilton continues racing in 2022, Wolff reckons Hamilton will call upon his resilience to bounce back.
"I would very much hope that Lewis continues racing, because he's the greatest driver of all time," he said.
"We will be working through the events over the next weeks and months. I think as a racer, his heart will say, 'I need to continue', because he's at the peak of his game.
"But we have to overcome the pain that was caused upon him on Sunday, also because he is a man with clear values, and it's difficult to understand that that happened."
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