Don Kennedy on Formula One.
An investigation into the season-ending Abu Dhabi GP by the FIA, continues, with the finger still being pointed at Race Director Michael Masi whose late decision to allow racing on the last lap after the removal of the safety-car, and allowing five cars to unlap themselves, set up a championship-deciding showdown between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen.
The latter was able to overtake Hamilton, who said the result was "manipulated", which meant Verstappen was crowned world champion. It was an unfortunate end to what was one of the most enthralling and dramatic championship battles ever.
Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton seem to still be licking the wounds of the last lap decision that the FIA are looking into, with Masi's job still very much on the line two weeks out from the team's starting to unveil the new 2022 cars.
Hamilton is believed to be holidaying in the United States in Colorado and hasn't been on social media since just before that last race in Abu Dhabi on December 12. The debate over Masi's decision has continued ever since.
Mercedes accused him of "robbing" Hamilton of the title, to borrow one of the words Mercedes boss Toto Wolff used to describe what he saw as a farcical finish to the season.
It has even been suggested that Mercedes did not proceed with an appeal over the steward's decision to leave the result in place, because it had done a deal with the FIA that it wouldn't appeal if Masi resigned or was sacked.
1997 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve knows a thing or two about close and controversial championship battles.
In 1996, in his first year in F1, he fought with his Williams teammate Damon Hill for the title, which was decided in Hill's favour in the season ending race at Suzuka, Japan when Villeneuve lost a wheel, while Hill won the race and the championship.
In 1997 Michael Schumacher, in the Ferrari, led Villeneuve by a single point going into the last race in Jerez, Spain. Trailing Schumacher for much of the race, Villeneuve went to overtake Schumacher at the end of the back straight. Schumacher turned in on him and gave Williams a good whack, but only succeeded in punting himself off and out of the race.
Villeneuve nursed his damaged car home, allowing the McLarens of Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard to pass him, as third was good enough for the championship. The FIA punished Schumacher by disqualifying him from the championship, yet he was allowed to keep his five race wins for the season, his pole positions and his points.
That though was an indication the FIA can tweak the rules to get what they consider is a fair result. For many, it was karma for Schumacher's similar move on Hill in the championship decider in Adelaide, Australia, in 1994.
On that occasion, the collision between Schumacher and Hill was considered a racing incident, even though the in-car camera on Schumacher's Benetton clearly showed him looking in his mirrors and waiting for Hill to dive inside him, and then deliberately turning in, even though his car was damaged beyond repair from smacking the wall, unsighted by Hill, at the previous corner.
The collision saw Schumacher's car go up on two wheels into the barriers. Hill carried on, but had broken a pushrod on his front suspension, and had to retire after slowly making his way back to the pits. Schumacher's reward for his misdemeanour was his first world title. He got away with that one, but not the one against Villeneuve three years later.
There was of course no collision between Verstappen and Hamilton in the Abu Dhabi decider, but Masi's actions to try and ensure the race didn't finish under a safety-car, in the end gave Verstappen the opportunity to overtake Hamilton with fresher tyres, depriving the latter of an eighth title, and giving Verstappen his first.
Former F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone applauded the outcome, because he thought Hamilton should have retired as a seven-time champion, and continued to share that record with Schumacher, who has never recovered from his 2013 skiing accident which means he hasn't been seen in public since.
His family refuses to disclose his medical condition, but it's fairly likely that he has no idea that Hamilton has seven titles, or even that his son Mick is now an F1 driver with Haas.
Villeneuve is a regular at grand prix as a commentator for TV and continues to race in various facets of motor racing, including this year's Daytona 500 in a Nascar. He remains quite outspoken and has firm views on the Hamilton-Verstappen showdown.
"It's good for the sport anyway because Lewis now has to come back and try to win his eighth championship, and be aggressive to try to win it," Villeneuve said.
"Ultimately it has got a lot of ink in the papers. It was slightly controversial, but it always is when it all comes down in the last race."
Villeneuve also thinks Masi made the right call.
"Michael Masi should not be removed," he told Gazetta dello Sport. "He worked under pressure with the two team principals, in particular Toto Wolff, who kept shouting in his ears for the last five laps."
"He did everything right, or almost right, after that safety-car. The only downside was he could have had everyone split a lap earlier, but it was right to restart the race."
Villeneuve says more precise rules are required and maybe permanent race stewards.
"The alternative is to allow everything and let the drivers punch each other after accidents, as happens in America," he quipped.
So, what does Villeneuve make of Hamilton's disillusionment with the sport, because he thought the result was manipulated, leading to suggestions he may retire.
"Well, who knows? Nobody expected [Nico] Rosberg not to come back, but he woke up one morning and told everyone somehow he wasn't passionate about racing," Villeneuve noted.
"That doesn't seem to be the case with Lewis, but who knows? It's really complicated to know what's going on in people's heads, when the season is so long, you think you know how it will go but it doesn't go the way you expect it to and you feel you've been robbed."
As for Hamilton's silence on social media, Villeneuve has his own unique theory on what that is about.
"I interpret Hamilton's silence as him wanting to put some distance between himself and Wolff. After all, you can lose with style, whereas Toto behaved like someone ho is playing Monopoly.
"The moment he is losing, throws the whole board into the air. In doing so, Wolff suffered a lot of image damage, in my opinion," Villeneuve added.
"Hamilton is sensitive to that because he is thinking about his future in America, maybe even in Hollywood."
As to whether Hamilton will come back or not, depends on a number of factors according to Villeneuve.
"It depends on the car that Mercedes will give Hamilton, whether he can win easily with it or not. Lewis is also a bit more tired; he has had easy seasons after Nico Rosberg's departure and he really won't want to have another year like he experienced last season."
"He thought he could easily bring in the record eighth title and that didn't happen. It's like a diamond in your hands and then suddenly it's taken out of your hands. In this way it hurts more than if Verstappen would have simply led the whole race."
Although Villeneuve didn't mention Hamilton's new teammate, George Russell, his arrival at Mercedes in place of Valtteri Bottas must be a factor weighing on Lewis' mind. Having deputised for Hamilton in Sakhir 2020 when Hamilton contracted coronavirus, Russell would have won the race but for the team botching his pit-stop and then later a puncture. He overtook Bottas twice in the race.
"Obviously I want to be a winner. I want to be world champion, and we spent the whole time at the back of the grid," Russell said. "2020 was a stronger year but it wasn't enough for us. 2021 was a stronger year but it was never enough. Until you are world champion, it's never enough."
Wolff is well aware of Russell's ambition, but also doesn't want another season like 2016 when Rosberg and Hamilton clashed and feuded as teammates. But knows putting Russell in the car after what he did in Sakhir, that this will be a possibility.
"We are not going to put a driver in the car who is not going to have the ambition to do as good as possible to kick his teammate as hard as he can, win races and championships early too, and that's clear," Wolff said.
Hamilton may have finished licking his wounds, and the general consensus is he will come back in time for the launch of the new Mercedes on February 18. But with the other nine teams hopefully more competitive thanks to the new regulations plus having a new teammate who won't play second fiddle like Bottas did, Hamilton will know he is for another hard season.
Then there is Verstappen, the defending world champion, now with the monkey off his back, 13 years younger than Hamilton, yet with the experience of eight seasons in F1, hungry for a second title. It is therefore not surprising Hamilton is keeping everyone guessing as to whether he returns or retires.