Less than three weeks from 2022 Formula 1 preseason testing, Lewis Hamilton continues to be silent about his plans for the upcoming season.
Prior to his return to social media this past weekend, Lewis Hamilton’s most recent public comments had been the comments he made to Sky Sports in the immediate aftermath of the 2021 Formula 1 world championship-deciding last lap of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on Sunday, December 12.
His most recent social media posts had been the posts he shared the day before, when he qualified alongside eventual champion Max Verstappen on the front row.
The seven-time world champion’s lone public appearance since the heartbreak came when he was knighted on Wednesday, December 15.
All the while, the talk has heated up: will the driver who signed to stay on with Mercedes through 2023 return for 2022, or will the way things ended in 2021 lead to him stepping away from Formula 1?
We are now under three weeks away from preseason testing, and that question still doesn’t have a definitive answer, despite his recent social media return.
Should Hamilton not return, it would leave open what is arguably the most coveted seat on the grid. Among active drivers, who could the Silver Arrows call upon to replace him?
Active Lewis Hamilton replacements: No. 1 – Valtteri Bottas
Valtteri Bottas is the easy answer here, given the fact that he spent the last five years with Mercedes before being replaced by George Russell for 2022.
Bottas has proven to be a great team player and knows his way around the team, and if Mercedes do end up being hit with Hamilton walking away, they could still enter the year with a lineup only half-different than it was in 2021 — despite effectively making two changes.
The 32-year-old Finn is set to replace Kimi Raikkonen at Alfa Romeo as it stands right now. But Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff and Alfa Romeo Fred Vasseur have a very strong relationship and could surely come to an agreement if need be, especially since it could in turn allow Antonio Giovinazzi to return to Formula 1 after he was replaced by rookie Guanyu Zhou at the team.
The only thing that could cause problems down the road is this: with Hamilton out, would Bottas still be willing to settle into a number two driver role?