It’s been a good month and a half since last year’s Formula 1 season came to a close in Abu Dhabi — with Max Verstappen snatching the title away from Lewis Hamilton in what will surely go down in history as one of the most controversial and divisive last laps of all time — and Lewis Hamilton is nowhere to be seen.
He’s only appeared in the media twice since, to my knowledge: once at the Mercedes F1 factory for their end-of-season celebration, and once at Windsor Castle to accept a knighthood from the royals they still have over there for some reason.
He’s also been uncharacteristically silent on social media. On Instagram, his erstwhile platform of choice, he unfollowed every account he had been following prior to the season ender, and his most recent post remains this one, posted just after Qualifying, prior to the final race:
All this quiet hasn’t given the official Mercedes F1 Instagram Team much to work with, in terms of content to repost and repackage. So things have gotten weird.
Ever since the very visible start of Lewis’ social media blackout, I’ve noticed the vibe of Mercedes’ Instagram turning… how to put this… like the photos you’d see posted by your uncle of all the good times he’s having with his wife who definitely hasn’t divorced him?
Like the photos a friend might post of the girlfriend who is definitely real and dating him despite the fact that they’re never in any of the photos together?
It’s getting very weird, is what I’m saying, very Weekend at Bernie’s. “Lewis? Oh yeah, he’s right here, say something, Lewis!”
Here, I present a list of increasingly desperate Lewis-centric posts made between last season’s final race and the present day:
DEC 12, 2021: It all starts with disbelief, and of course a Twitter cross-post.
DEC 17, 2021: This one is an actual image of Lewis taken around the time it was posted. Don’t get used to that! In time, this post will seem sadder than it did at time of posting. He’s here, he’s home, he’s alright. Don’t worry.
DEC 20, 2021: A repost from whoever takes photos of these sorts of things. The BBC? The AP? The queen herself? Who could say. I should note that the Mercedes account’s tone towards Lewis is always like this. Wife Guy vibes 24/7.
JAN 02, 2022: Okay here we go. Old shot of Lewis in his race suit from the 2021 season. Vague caption about the incredible things he’s achieved. This is the Instagram equivalent of putting up a cardboard standee in your bedroom. And as of this post, we are also firmly in the realm of the media starting to openly speculate on whether Lewis will be returning next season. But all’s well at Merc!
JAN 05, 2022: Believe it or not, this post actually follows a trend of somewhat creepy photoshop/illustrations of Lewis in absurd, time-travelly situations. Here, his childhood self looks to a photo of his future accomplishments. It’s already starting to feel like Mercedes think if they just positive-post about Lewis enough, he’ll come out of his cave.
JAN 07, 2022: His birthday has come and gone, and still no word. That’s alright, Mercedes are here to remind us that not only is Lewis an incredible driver who has nearly accomplished the impossible, he is their incredible driver who has nearly accomplished the impossible. Can’t wait for 2022! Right? Right?
JAN 07, 2022: This might be my favorite. Exemplifies exactly what I’m trying to get across here. It’s a double post their second post of the day, old pic (of course), nothing in the pic has much to do with anything, and an absolute nothing of a caption. What can they say, really? Just thinking about… him 🤩
JAN 07, 2022: Okay. Third post of the day. I think in some ways they can be forgiven for that, it is the guy’s birthday. What’s great about it is that, again, with nothing to share from the man himself, it’s just, “hey everyone, thanks for coming to Lewis’ birthday party. Lewis isn’t here yet, but in the meantime, why don’t we all talk about our favorite memories of him! I’m sure he’ll be here in no time!”
JAN 11, 2022: Still nothing from Lewis. Remember these helmets, though? Pretty cool! What’s that? You’d like to know if he’ll still be racing for us next year, or if the way the last lap safety car rules were applied in such an uneven and unprecedented way that his hard-fought commanding lead in the most important and exciting race of the season was made meaningless has disillusioned him such that he’s lost all faith in the sport he loves and worked his entire life to reach, and the incredible things he’s achieved within it?
…Did you see the helmets?
JAN 17, 2022: I’m crazy about this one. Old 2021 promotional pic. Just smoldering into the camera. No caption whatsoever. Just love this guy. Can’t wait for him to call me back. Thinking of you, boo!
JAN 19, 2022: New genre of Lewis post just dropped! Picture taken months ago being used in conjunction with a present-tense caption addressing something completely unrelated.
Just so we’re clear, it’s not that I think something nefarious is going on here. Mostly, it’s just wild that the function of the Mercedes F1 team’s social media in the off-season is just to remind people that they exist. Though, this may be the most relatable thing about them.
JAN 21, 2022: Happy National Hugging Day, Team!! I guess!!
JAN 22, 2022: Which was your favorite Lewis Hamilton win of 2021? Was it the one that was arguably stolen from him at the last second for no good reason? We’d ask Lewis, but his voicemail is full!
JAN 24, 2022: A video this time! Looking back at the start of Mercedes’ Lewis era. Convenient, as it only requires archival footage. What an era it’s been! Will it, uh… will it continue?
JAN 24, 2022: There’s only one Lewis Hamilton. We’ve tagged him so that he knows exactly how we feel about him. Will he see that tag? That’s, uh, you know… We… Well… He’s… What a guy!!
JAN 26, 2022: Alright, that’s enough (Sidenote: this is the point at which we should’ve known Wordle was dead). This is the post that finally pushed me to collect all of these together and shout at no one in particular: THIS IS SAD! THIS IS SO PATHETIC!
Look, I get it. It’s hard to be a social media manager. It must be unbearable to be the social media manager for a global sports brand. You have to post something to remind people you exist constantly. So when you’ve got nothing to work with, you post what you’ve got.
As for Lewis, again, I sympathize. If what happened to him in Abu Dhabi happened to me, I’d also want to go away and not be seen or talked to for a while. Hell, I don’t know that I’d be so stoic about it! So I fully support the guy. Do what you’ve gotta do. It’s gotta be weird to have the whole world looking at you all the time and hanging on your every word.
And to be perfectly clear — if I didn’t make it obvious enough — I am a Lewis Hamilton fan. I was rooting for him last season, I think he was robbed, and I will root for him next season should he decide to return. I want to see him fight for and win that record eighth Driver’s Championship title. I think he can still do it, he’s possibly the greatest driver to ever live. I really hope he decides to keep driving.
And if he doesn’t? Well. Mercedes better find a hit word game they can fit GEORGE into.