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Hamilton reflects on a challenging season and future in F1

Lewis Hamilton has acknowledged moments of self-doubt throughout the 2023 Formula 1 season

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Lewis Hamilton has openly questioned whether the lack of competitiveness could be attributed to himself or the car’s performance.

Lewis Hamilton on track during the F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi at Yas Marina Circuit (Image Credit: James Gasperotti/Ciancaphoto Studio – Getty Images)

Since the introduction of ground effect aerodynamics in 2022, the seven-time World Champion has experienced the initial two seasons without a victory. Meanwhile, Red Bull rival Max Verstappen boasts 34 race wins in the same time frame. During these last two years, Mercedes became hyper-focused on a development path that failed to align with the speed demonstrated by Red Bull. But this path did not lead them to the success they were hoping for.

Mercedes Team Principal, Toto Wolff, has not shied away from acknowledging the strenuous position that the team has found itself in. Referring to the challenges, Wolff told “There is a Mount Everest to climb to catch Red Bull”. However, Hamilton has openly admitted to occasionally questioning whether the team’s shortfall is attributed to his own performance or the capabilities of the car itself.

Hamilton left empty and pondering

The 2022 season was not kind to Hamilton, with teammate George Russell out-scoring Hamilton by 35 points. The tables turned in the 2023 season, seeing a more confident Hamilton regaining the spot as the number one driver for the Brackley-based outfit, finishing 59 points ahead of his teammate by the end of the 2023 season.

Despite achieving six podiums, pole position, and securing third place in the drivers’ championship as the highest-placed non-Red Bull driver, the 38-year-old still wonders if the season’s challenges were influenced by his own performance as well as the car.

In an interview with the BBC, Hamilton did not avoid the topic that has evidently plagued his mind. He revealed that he has at times found himself in limbo, left fractured after a shakey 2023 season.

“When you have difficult seasons like this, there are always going to be moments when you’re like: ‘Is it me, or is it the car? Do you still have it? Has it gone?

“Because you’re missing that, you know… when the magic happens, when everything comes together, the car and you, and that spark, it’s extraordinary. And that’s what you’re in the search for.”

In regards to a lack of communication within the team as a whole, Hamilton commented: “I’m sure there were frustrations, because I had asked for certain changes, and they weren’t done.”

Final race retrospective

Following the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi last weekend, where he finished a disappointing ninth, Hamilton openly expressed his relief at not having to race in this (current) Mercedes car again.

When speaking to the BBC, Hamilton touched on the idea that he thought Verstappen had seldom needed to showcase his true potential throughout this year. However, he still went on to praise the amazing efforts made by the three-time World Champion and the team at Red Bull.

Hamilton and Verstappen celebrate after both finishing on the podium in the Grand Prix of Mexico (Image Credit: Jared C. Tilton – Getty Images)

“You can go through the lap times and some of the data from Max; he is just chilling at the front more often than not. I don’t think he has broken a sweat during the year.

“Even when we were chasing him in Austin, I don’t think he was sweating. I think he was just able to control it. And when you are in that position where you have performance and can back off, the car goes further. The tyres go longer and you are in a sweet spot and it is amazing to be in that place.

“Ultimately, they have done an amazing job and worked and deserve it.”

Hamilton’s future and self-awareness

Hamilton, who signed a new contract with Mercedes earlier this season, will now continue in the sport until 2025—a development that even he hadn’t anticipated happening.

He acknowledges that a ‘never say never’ attitude is the way he is looking at his future endeavours within the sport. However, he is very aware of the double-edged sword he now faces, as anticipation builds for a comeback to the top of the grid from the most successful driver in the sport’s history.

“I definitely didn’t think I’d be continuing,” he said. “They are frickin’ long seasons. It’s a long time away from everyone. I’ve been doing it 16 years. It’s gruelling.”

‘There’s a lot of glitz and glamour and lots of positives but it’s by no means easy to stay at your best, to stay committed, to keep up the training, to continue to deliver. It’s a lot of pressure.”

“You’re being scrutinised all the time and I’m in a place in my life where there’s no way I can win.”

Fire in his belly

The signing of Hamilton’s new two-year contract extension has put to bed any chance of him quitting the sport at this current time.

Both he and Wolff consistently affirmed that there was never a doubt about him departing the team, despite occasional rumours suggesting the latter. Hamilton explicitly stated that he never had a moment of uncertainty about his commitment to another two years in the sport. “No, not when we were doing negotiations,” he said. “I do have faith that we will get there.”

Alongside his commitment to Mercedes, Hamilton expressed a multifaceted motivation for the future extending to both on and off-grid activities, ranging from pursuing his eighth world title, to actively contributing to the advancement of diversity in motorsport, both with Mercedes and through his Mission 44 foundation, among other endeavours.

Lewis Hamilton with Mission 44 (Image Credit: Mission 44)

“Winning the world championship is a huge part of that drive and continuing to build with the team in terms of the impact work we’re doing, continuing to push with the team with Mission 44.

“I don’t know how far that can go and I’m trying to expand it, and that means I’ve got to raise more money. I’ve gotta build more of a team if I’m going to do more work in Brazil, for example, in Africa. Getting a Grand Prix in Africa is huge.”

Feature Image Credit: Mark Thompson – Getty Images

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