Fresh concerns have been raised about Lewis Hamilton's future in Formula 1 despite Mercedes dropping multiple hints that the seven-time world champion will be on the grid next season. The British racer is said to be waiting for the outcome of the FIA enquiry into the events that led to the controversial ending at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix before making a final decision on his future.

Hamilton looked to be on his way to winning the 2021 F1 world title until a controversial call from FIA race director Michael Masi gave Max Verstappen the opportunity to overtake his title rival on the final lap and snatch the championship. The FIA has set up a commission to understand the events that led to the much debated ending, and reports have suggested that his future will depend on the outcome.

In 2016, Mercedes faced the challenge of replacing Nico Rosberg, who announced his retirement in the aftermath of winning the world championship. The Silver Arrows will not want to be caught out like that and could be making alternative plans in case Hamilton decides to hang up his helmet.

The reigning Constructors' Champions have replaced Valtteri Bottas with George Russell for the new season, and the Finn is likely to be a contender owing to his familiarity with the team. However, the he has suggested that one of the reasons he joined Alfa Romeo was to break his connection with Mercedes.

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

Another quality option is Esteban Ocon, who was a Mercedes junior driver before he joined Alpine Racing last season. The Frenchman is now contracted to the French team until the end of the 2024 campaign, and is unlikely to be allowed to leave and Mercedes will have to pay a huge compensation to have a chance.

Apart from current race drivers, there are other options Mercedes can explore with Nico Hulkenburg expected to be top of the list. The German driver is currently employed by the Aston Martin Racing team as a reserve driver, which makes him available to Mercedes, who supply the power units to Aston Martin.

Mercedes, however, according to the Daily Express, could in the event of Hamilton's retirement turn to their two reserve drivers Nick de Vries and Stoffel Vandoorne. The duo raced for the Mercedes Formula-E team last season, of which the former is the reigning champion.

De Vries even drove for the Silver Arrows team during the young drivers test in Abu Dhabi after the conclusion of the 2021 season. The 26-year-old Dutchman is expected to be the top choice, but if Mercedes want an experienced head then Hulkenburg is the best available at short notice.

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