Lewis Hamilton’s silence on his plans for the 2022 Formula 1 season has led to comparisons to a quarterback currently dominating in the NFL.
Lewis Hamilton’s most recent public comments continue to be those he made in his post-race interview with Sky Sports after his heartbreaking 2021 Formula 1 world championship defeat at the hands of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen on the final lap of the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at Yas Marina after a controversial restart.
The seven-time world champion has not even addressed the fans since he posted pictures the day before the race after qualifying alongside Verstappen on the front row six weeks ago.
While Hamilton is under contract with Mercedes through the 2023 season after signing a multi-year extension this past summer, the controversial manner by which he saw what would have been a record-breaking eighth world championship slip away has led to rumors that he may call it quits after 15 seasons.
We still don’t know the answer to whether or not Formula 1’s all-time winningest driver will be back for the upcoming season, for which preseason testing is scheduled to start in under a month.
However, what we do know is that this situation looks oddly similar to another recent scenario involving a star athlete surrounded by retirement rumors after a disappointing and somewhat controversial end to a potential championship run.
And if the parallels continue, Lewis Hamilton will be a bigger force to be reckoned with than he has ever been in 2022.
That athlete is Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
The Packers held the number 1 overall seed in the NFC throughout the 2020-21 NFL playoffs, but after rolling the Los Angeles Rams in the divisional round by a score of 32-18, they fell short of knocking off the Tom Brady-led Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC Championship Game, losing 31-26.
Brady, like Hamilton last year, would go on to win his seventh championship, defeating the Patrick Mahomes-led Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV by a score of 31-9.
It was an NFC Championship Game marred by questionable calls. The Buccaneers sealed the victory when Packers cornerback Kevin King was called — with a very, very late flag — for pass interference on wide receiver Tyler Johnson on the final drive. First down, Bucs; game over.
Earlier in the game, Buccaneers cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting, who ironically has a connection to Red Bull himself, got away with a far clearer pass interference on Packers wide receiver Allen Lazard prior to an interception one of Rodgers’ passes.
Questionable calls, just like in Abu Dhabi.
The way Mercedes and the Packers operated in crunch time was also quite similar.
Make no mistake about it; sure, the procedure during the safety car period was, at the very least, a head scratcher.
But Mercedes themselves made multiple — and we stress multiple — calls throughout the race weekend that ultimately cost themselves the title.
It almost reminds you of Packers head coach Matt LaFleur opting to take Rodgers off the field and send out Mason Crosby to kick a field goal on 4th and goal, while down by 8 points, late in the game before handing the ball back to Brady and, for some inexplicable reason that we still haven’t figured out, expecting him not to seal the deal.
After that game, Rodgers effectively went silent on his future. Some sources said he wanted to leave the Packers for another team; others said he planned to retire amid his disgust with the organization.
Six months of speculation and one 10-day run as a Jeopardy! guest host later, Rodgers finally returned to the Packers in late July, after holding out of offseason activities.
While he missed an early November game against the Kansas City Chiefs after testing positive for COVID-19, Rodgers led the Packers to an NFL-best 13-4 record, giving them NFC’s number 1 seed and homefield advantage throughout the NFC playoffs for the second straight year. They secured a first-round playoff bye with a week remaining in the regular season.
He also finds himself as the favorite to win what would be a second consecutive and fourth overall NFL MVP Award. He completed 68.9% of his passes for 4,115 yards and 37 touchdowns with just four interceptions, and he boasts a league-best 111.9 passer rating and a league-best 68.9 QBR.
So let’s get back to Hamilton.
We’ve passed the controversy phase, and we’ve passed the team mismanagement phase. Here we are at the “will he retire?” phase, one that will surely last for a much shorter time than Rodgers’s did, given the length of the Formula 1 offseason.
What happens when Hamilton, like Rodgers, ends the retirement rumors and confirms his return, despite his disgruntled state?
Will he return with something to prove in the same way that Rodgers has and dominate Formula 1?
Formula 1 preseason testing is scheduled to get underway on Monday, February 21 and run through Friday, February 25 at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, while a separate test is scheduled to take place from Thursday, March 10 to Saturday, March 12 at Bahrain International Circuit ahead of the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix on Sunday, March 20.