McLaren chief executive Zak Brown has cast further doubt on Lewis Hamilton's future in Formula 1 by suggesting that there is "no guarantee" the Briton will return to the grid in 2022. The seven-time champion's future is in question after he was left disillusioned with the sport following his controversial loss at the 2021 season finale in Abu Dhabi.

Max Verstappen claimed his maiden F1 world title after overtaking Hamilton on the final lap at the Yas Marina circuit after the Mercedes driver had led from the start and looked comfortable going into the final laps. A late safety car incident saw FIA race director Michael Masi make controversial decisions to ensure the race did not end behind the safety car, which gave the Red Bull driver the opportunity to pounce on a defenseless Hamilton.

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff was incensed after the race and the team protested the decision by Masi, but it was overruled by the stewards, who suggested that the race director acted within the rules. The FIA, on Mercedes' insistence, has decided to set up an independent inquiry to ensure a similar situation does not occur, and Hamilton's future is tied to the outcome after the Briton suggested that the Abu Dhabi race result was "manipulated".

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

"I wouldn't be shocked if he stopped, so no one should take for granted that he is coming back," Brown said, as quoted by the Guardian. "We should not discount or not recognise his frustration, his anger. Maybe he has not made a decision and what he is doing is taking time to make that decision to make sure. Because once it's made, it's made, I don't think we should rule it out or make light of it."

Hamilton has not made a public statement after his contentious loss in Abu Dhabi, and despite Mercedes dropping many hints that he will honour his two-year deal, it has been suggested that his future will depend on the FIA's findings. Mohammed Ben Sulayem, the newly elected FIA president has met with Wolff, and they are expected to submit the report on March 18.

Brown welcomed the enquiry into the events that led to the controversial ending of the 2021 season on Dec 12, but is certain that Masi's decisions were not malicious in nature. The McLaren chief is confident that the sport is not corrupt, but it was just an error in judgement and not aimed particularly at Hamilton.

"They need to show they have taken action to make sure it doesn't happen again but I don't think this was a malicious decision," he added. "For those who may have the view that the sport is corrupt, I don't agree. Potentially a different decision could have been made but I want to wait to see what the FIA comes out with."

Zak Brown
'Devastating': McLaren boss Zak Brown Peter PARKS/AFP