At the current moment in time, talk of Lewis Hamilton quitting F1 is continuing to rumble on. The Brit’s silence hasn’t helped, of course, with the wounds from his defeat to Max Verstappen in Abu Dhabi clearly still raw. Yet if he returns to the sport after such a setback, it will show exactly why he’s deserving of the same GOAT status often attributed to Michael Schumacher.
Hamilton went into the deciding F1 race of the season earlier this month looking to reign supreme and overtake Schumacher in the history books, at least when it comes to titles.
Yet the Mercedes star was beaten to the prize by Verstappen, with the Red Bull star triumphing in controversial circumstances.
Since then, Hamilton has been silent.
The 36-year-old is hurting. His brother, Nicolas, recently admitted as much by saying: “I think he is just having a bit of a social media break, which I don’t blame him for.
“Social media can be a very toxic place. But he’s cool though. He’s fine.”
Mercedes chief Toto Wolff also recently addressed Hamilton’s silence, saying in midweek: “We are all wavering in emotions and Lewis most of all.
“He won the World Championship until the last lap, and then everything is taken away from you from one second [to the next]. Of course you lose faith because you can’t understand what has just happened.
“The silence is there, of course, because he simply lacks words as well.”
Hamilton’s feelings are understandable.
After all, in a parallel universe, he’d now be recognised as the GOAT with more F1 titles than anyone else in the sport’s entire history.
Instead, he’s now mulling over his options. Bernie Ecclestone thinks retirement is a genuine possibility, saying: “I don’t know [what is happening with Lewis Hamilton], but I don’t think he’s coming back.
“His disappointment is too big. And you can somehow understand it.
“Now it would be time to tackle his dream of becoming a fashion entrepreneur with seven World Cup titles like Michael Schumacher.”
However, if Hamilton returns, then he deserves the utmost credit.
Setbacks within sport are normal, even if they’re crushing to take at times.
Hamilton’s rivalry with Verstappen last year was ferocious, with the duo both clashing on and off the track over the course of the calendar.
So coming back, when there’s so much on the line, would be a major statement of intent.
Schumacher initially retired in 2006, having finished second and third. Before that, he’d won five titles on the trot.
Yet he returned to the sport four years later because he was willing to go out of his comfort zone, willing to push himself further.
If Hamilton were to quit now, when he’s just one title away from making history, it will be a major disappointment.
It’s hard to see him walking down fashion catwalks just yet. Instead, there’s a genuine sense he still has so much to offer.
Schumacher is the GOAT because he was always willing to take risks, always willing to drive himself on to new challenges and new adventures.
Hamilton can learn from that.
Just by returning for one last duel with Verstappen he’d show he’s got a winning mentality, a thirst for glory only the very best have.
And it would mean giving F1 fans a treat with another season of epic sporting action potentially on the cards.
Given he’s contracted to Mercedes until 2023, that still seems the likeliest bet.