Lewis Hamilton has committed to returning to Formula 1 in 2022 after breaking his silence at the launch of the Mercedes car for the new season.
Hamilton had not spoken publicly since the controversial end to the 2021 season that saw Max Verstappen snatch the world title away from the seven-time winner on the final lap of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The 37-year-old was said to be waiting for the conclusions of the FIA investigation into the events in the United Arab Emirates.
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And just one day after the removal of Michael Masi as F1 race director, Hamilton has ended the speculation and confirmed that he will line up alongside new teammate George Russell this year.
“I never said I’d stop," Hamilton said at the launch of the new Mercedes W13 car. "I love doing what I do, it’s a privilege. You feel like a family. There’s no feeling like it.
"It was a difficult time for me, I needed to take a step back, focusing on the present, with my family and creating great moments."
“I decided then I’d attack again, working with [team principal] Toto [Wolff] and George [Russell]."
Hamilton was denied a record-breaking eighth world title by Verstappen's final-lap overtake.
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Masi had contentiously ruled that lapped cars between the Dutchman and race leader Hamilton would be allowed to unlap themselves, allowing the Red Bull driver, on significantly fresher tyres, a clear run to attack Hamilton and claim his maiden Drivers' Championship.
As part of a wider restructure in the wake of a heavily-criticised denouement at the Yas Marina Circuit, Masi will be replaced by Eduardo Freitas and Niels Wittich as race director.
The pair will rotate in the role and be assisted by Herbie Blash, the veteran deputy race director who returns to the sport more than five years after retiring.
For Hamilton, 2022 will provide an opportunity to unite with a new partner in compatriot Russell, who arrives from Williams to replace Valtteri Bottas.
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Addressing the end to the 2021 season and his new teammate, Hamilton added: “It doesn’t change me, it’s a positive, new blood, new energy.
"George had an amazing career so far.
“It’s exciting to see him grow. I’ve had him sitting behind me on the desk.”
Russell, who has never won a Grand Prix but secured his first podium in Belgium last year, is equally keen to get to work.
“It's surreal," Russell explained of getting the opportunity to race alongside Hamilton. "I was a young kid, Lewis was world champion, a superhero to me.
"Incredible people [like Hamilton], you don't think they're human.
“It’s a privilege to race alongside him, to learn and see how the best do it.”
The 2022 season begins in Bahrain, with race day at the Sakhir circuit on Sunday 20 March.
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