Mika Hakkinen is hopeful that Lewis Hamilton will continue in Formula 1 and not hang up his helmet before the 2022 season gets underway next month. The former two-time world champion also feels that Mercedes' success going into 2022 and beyond will determine the British's racer's long-term future in the sport.

Hamilton's stranglehold over the Drivers' championship title was broken in 2021 when Max Verstappen beat the Briton to claim his maiden title with Red Bull Racing. The seven-time champion has since shied away from the public eye, with many questioning if Hamilton will return to the grid when the new season gets underway.

The teams are hoping that the new technical regulations will bring the field closer together, and with many hoping that like the "Hybrid Era" that saw Mercedes become the dominant force, there will be a new force at the head of the pecking order. The Silver Arrows team and Red Bull are expected to be fighting for the title again with the likes of Ferrari and McLaren hoping to join the fight.

Hakkinen is hopeful that Hamilton will return for the upcoming campaign, but admits that the Briton will struggle to find the motivation to continue beyond 2022 if Mercedes do not give him the opportunity to remain on top of the mountain.

Lewis Hamilton
Max Verstappen won an epic season-long battle with reigning champion Lewis Hamilton ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/AFP

"Lewis' journey in Formula One has been really long and there are so many elements which will come into his opinion as to whether to continue," Hakkinen said, as quoted on Sky Sports F1. "Lewis has the confidence. He has been winning, he has been on the top of the podium, and everybody has been looking at him like, 'Wow, you are great'."

"He is thinking that it must continue this way, so this is going to be a very interesting year for him," he added. "If you have been at the top of the mountain and suddenly you have to climb back up the mountain because you don't have the best car, it is going to be emotional for him to control."

"There are a lot of question marks surrounding Lewis. We don't know whether he is coming back, but let's hope he is."

Mercedes have confirmed that their new challenger - the W13 - for the 2022 campaign will be unveiled on Feb. 18, five days before the first official shakedown. There is hope that it will become clear on the day of the launch if Hamilton will join George Russell in giving the car its first outing at the Silverstone Circuit after it is unveiled.

Lewis Hamilton
Back in business: Lewis Hamilton will race in the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Giuseppe CACACE/POOL