Lewis Hamilton and Toto Wolff spoke on various topics related to FIA structure along with where they are with the sport, retirement from F1.

Mercedes reacted to announcement from the FIA as Wolff calls the changes “good” and “essential”, with Hamilton, upon his return to F1 media sessions, wanting to make sure a “close eye” is kept on the implementation of the changes.

The announcement from President Mohammed Ben Sulayem detailed a raft of changes to the structure of the race direction, including the removal of Michael Masi as race director. The introduction of two new highly-experienced alternating race directors alongside a brand new virtual FIA control room is a major part of the structural shake-up to how a Grand Prix weekend is officiated over.

After unveiling the all-new Mercedes F1 W13 E-Performance, Wolff outlined his thoughts on the announcement. He was subsequently questioned on whether he at all believed the 2021 finale was fixed, immediately stating that “nothing is fixed” and that it was “just circumstances and decisions that were unprecedented” and now in the past.

Wolff was also asked on seven-time champion Hamilton’s frame of mind after his Abu Dhabi Grand Prix defeat, and whether retirement was ever a real threat for him which meant a Plan B on the driver front was under consideration. He also spoke on the determination of Hamilton, especially with the disqualification in Brazil.

Thoughts on FIA decision –

Wolff: “I believe that the right steps have been taken and I’m optimistic about the changes that have been implemented. Certainly the role of a race director is not easy and now having two very experienced guys up there (Neils Wittich and Eduardo Freitas), that is good but the support structure that has been built around them is essential. Not only in the race director’s room but also with a remote control room where the race directors can rely on feedback and inputs to make the decision making process easier for them. I believe that the last few years or the last couple of years we have seen a little bit of freestyle in the interpretation of the regulations so yes I’m happy with what has been implemented by the incoming President.”

Appeal drop with Masi as a point –

Wolff: “What can I say? Has dropping the appeal linked to anyone leaving the FIA is not true. I don’t know where that comes [from]. I think that the restructuring within how the decisions are being made within F1 sporting decisions have been made and also technical decisions was necessary. Last year was a great season but it created a lot of polarisation with decisions that were not always easy to understand.”

Fixed race or not –

Wolff: “No nothing is fixed. I think it was a… what’s the right word… it was just circumstances and decisions that were unprecedented and how they came about certainly for us was a shock. Three laps to the end we got a message that lapped cars were not allowed to unlap themselves and three or four minutes suddenly there is two messages that came out of nowhere and obviously we know what happened in the background unknown to us and then the championship was gone, in literally half a minute of decision making process that is unprecedented.

“But also we have to move on from that, I think it’s in the past and with the measures that were announced yesterday by Mohammed I think we need to put it aside. We are not going to forget it because that’s simply not possible but we need to look into 2022 especially today launching the car. This should be the moment that we can really [see] the steps that have been taken by the FIA, embark with encouragement into the season.”

Hamilton aloof –

Wolff: “I think what he did was absolutely right to take himself out of the microcosmos of Formula 1 and step aside and black out socially, and he has come back in a great mindset. He’s positive, he’s determined and yet again adversity thrown at him will make him stronger and it’s attack mode.”

No concern of him leaving –

Wolff: “I was never concerned that he was leaving. Within the team we knew that he needed to take the time to reflect on things and particularly to understand how he could come back in the best possible frame of mind so there was, on our side, no worries about him coming back.”

Moving on, Hamilton himself explained how he digested the season finale over time, but always made efforts to keep his frame of mind on the positives and looked to improve himself for the future. When pressed on his relationship going forward with the sport, the FIA and Max Verstappen, Hamilton highlighted how the situation had “nothing to do with Max” and that this year will be “another battle” between them as holding grudges or dwelling on the past is not what he feels he does.

He also rallied behind Williams driver Nicholas Latifi, who last year outlined how he’d received death threats post-Abu Dhabi after his crash brought out the infamous safety car. Hamilton had been in touch with the Canadian, knowing “how difficult it can be in those situations”, and wanting to “apply pressure” to social media platforms to enact positive change. Later he was asked whether he ever seriously considered retiring after the conclusion of the 2021 season.

What you did since Abu Dhabi –

Hamilton: “I just unplugged, switched off. Firstly I deserve at the end of the year to be able to switch off anyway, I had my whole family around me – it was a rare occasion where we were all together and just focused on being present with them. It took time to digest what happened which I think is still difficult to fully understand everything, but to come back stronger, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, so I put my focus into training, getting healthy and enjoying the time off because it goes quickly.”

Disillusioned with F1 –

Hamilton: “It was a difficult time naturally for me to be honest, and what I’d really love to say is a huge thank you to all of you. I’ve known many of you for a long time and been on this journey with me, and the support that you gave at the end of the year was just incredible and I’m forever grateful to all of you so thank you. For me I just unplugged, switched off.

“Firstly I deserve at the end of the year to be able to switch off anyway, I had my whole family around me – it was a rare occasion where we were all together and just focused on being present with them. It took time to digest what happened which I think is still difficult to fully understand everything but to come back stronger, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, so I put my focus into training, getting healthy and enjoying the time off because it goes quickly.”

Watched the race –

Hamilton: “No, I absolutely didn’t re-watch the race, it was something that I was very clear in mind and of course it replayed in my mind quite a lot in the coming weeks after the race. I don’t remember what I said to Max, it’s all a bit of a blur after that. I’ve not revisited it, I don’t particularly want to go backwards, I want to go forwards. What I will say I think from yesterday is, while we can’t change the past and nothing will ever really be able to change the way and how it felt at the time and how I felt about the situation, it’s good to see the FIA are making steps, as accountability is key at this moment to make sure it never happens to anyone else in the sport ever again. Everyone said by the FIA, but we need to keep a close eye on it and make sure we are seeing those changes and rules are applied fairly, accurately and consistently.”

Faith in sport –

Hamilton: “I’d put faith and trust alongside each other and trust can obviously be lost in the blink of an eye or the flick of a finger. To earn trust is something that’s built over a long period of time so whilst I didn’t see that coming, this first announcement at launch of yesterday is the first step of that but it doesn’t change anything yet. We have to see actual action and I think it will take a bit of time, but I’m not really focused on that area, I’m just putting every ounce of my energy and time into making sure that I’m the best you’ve ever seen.”

FIA report –

Hamilton: “I’ve not seen it. I didn’t think it was out yet. I’m excited to see the results from that report and hopefully everyone will get to see it and to have perhaps a better understanding of everything. I think ultimately it’s about understanding where we’ve been so we can move forwards in a positive light.”

Considered retirement –

Hamilton: “I’ve considered retiring so many times – I’m kidding. Honestly I haven’t, of course I think at the end of seasons the question is whether you’re willing to commit the time, the effort that it takes to be world champion. I think a lot of people underestimate what it takes to be a world champion. And there are so many moving parts, it’s not just turning up and driving the car. The question is do you want to sacrifice the time, do you believe that you can punch at the weight that you’re punching so that’s a normal mental process for me but of course this one was confounded by a significant factor and I think ultimately a sport that I’ve loved my whole life there was a moment where I lost a little bit of faith within the system but I am generally a very determined person and I like to think to myself whilst moments like this might define others careers, I refuse to let it define mine and so I’m focused on being the best I can be and coming back stronger.”

The story was written by Danny Herbert

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