Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has cast further doubt on whether Lewis Hamilton will return to F1 this season.
The disillusionment experienced by Hamilton and Wolff after the controversial ending to the season finale in Abu Dhabi last month would appear to still remain.
In an interview this week with Austrian publication Kronen Zeitung, Wolff insists that what unfolded at the Yas Marina Circuit in mid-December "will never be forgotten".
Since then, when Hamilton missed out on a record eighth F1 title via decisions made by FIA race director Michael Masi over the closing stages that handed Red Bull's Max Verstappen his maiden crown, the Briton has kept his counsel.
Put to Wolff that Hamilton would not stop, the Austrian could only remark: "I really hope we'll see him again.
"He is the most important part of our sport. It would be an indictment for the whole of Formula 1 if the best driver decides to quit because of outrageous decisions."
Hamilton 'needs time' to understand - Wolff
Wolff has suggested Hamilton is still finding it hard to come to terms with the injustice he felt was carried out by Masi, whose position also remains in dispute.
"No matter what hurdles he has faced, he has known all his life that he has to speak on the racetrack," added Wolff.
"But it is incredibly difficult for him until he has found a way between understanding right and wrong. It just takes time."
Even a month now following the events of Abu Dhabi, Wolff also still finds it difficult to comprehend the way the situation played out.
"What happened to Lewis was just wrong," insisted Wolff. "He was unbeatable that day until the race management blew fuses and decided on three rule violations.
"It's just hard to understand. It will always remain with us, even though Max Verstappen is a worthy world champion over the course of the season.
"But that day one was better than the other and he didn't win."
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