There are a lot of speculations surrounding the future of seven-time Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton, who lost the 2021 title under controversial circumstances to Max Verstappen. Now, former F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone has weighed in on the situation, and thinks that the Mercedes driver will likely hang up his helmet in the wake of the disappointment.

Ecclestone is known for his controversial opinions even after officially leaving his post as F1 supremo. Now, he is causing a stir after saying that Hamilton won't be on the grid in 2022 due to the blow dealt by the final-lap disaster at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

"I don't think he is coming back, I think he will not race next year," Ecclestone said, in an interview quoted by Marca. It may be remembered that Hamilton and Verstappen arrived in Abu Dhabi dead level on points. The Red Bull Racing driver took pole position on Saturday, but a poor start handed Hamilton the lead off the line on Sunday.

Hamilton led throughout the race, but Verstappen was able to change his tyres two more times than the Briton during a virtual safety car and again during a safety car deployment in the closing stages of the race. Mercedes opted to keep the defending world champion out in order to guarantee track position, but the gamble did not pay off. As a result of avoiding the extra stops, Hamilton had been running on 40-lap old tyres during the final lap, with Verstappen on fresh tyres.

Race director Michael Masi decided to call in the safety car to allow the title contenders to race in the final lap after allowing the lapped cars between them to get out of the way. Verstappen found himself right next to Hamilton when the race resumed, and he quickly ate up the Mercedes after just a few corners.

"His disappointment in Abu Dhabi was too great, and I understand him. Now, tied for seven titles with Michael Schumacher, it is the perfect time for him to fulfil his dream and be a fashion entrepreneur," said Ecclestone.

"A couple of days ago I spoke with his father, and I realised immediately that he did not want to talk about the future of his son, so we just talked about business," he said, giving a glimpse into what is happening in Hamilton's inner circle. Apart from being photographed receiving his knighthood from the Prince of Wales shortly after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, there has been total radio silence from Hamilton.

Speculations about his possible retirement came after Mercedes chief Toto Wolff hinted that he was not sure if Hamilton will be back in the car next season.

Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen
Deposed champion Lewis Hamilton congratulated Max Verstappen AFP / ANDREJ ISAKOVIC