Hamilton opens up on plans to remain in F1 ahead of 2023 season
Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes were in a mess last year with the Silver Arrows humiliated by former title rival Max Verstappen. Just months on from their titanic 2021 title duel, the Dutchman lapped the seven-time champion and issued a brutal blow.
However, a year on and the German marque is in better shape with the squad finally looking capable of challenging towards the sharp end. It was last year’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix when Mercedes hit their lowest point as Verstappen swept past to lap Hamilton.
Sky Sports F1 commentator David Croft realised the significance of the moment, remarking: “Ouch that is going to hurt.” Verstappen tempered his likely excitement after the race as he delivered a low blow to his former rival.
He explained: “Mercedes has been slow all year, so for me it’s not anything exciting, it just happens.” Team boss Helmut Marko even suggested Hamilton should have walked away after 2021.
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It led Hamilton to hit out at the claims on social media with the champion stressing he would be going nowhere. The Brackley-based team got on top of their dreaded porpoising issues which were solved by June as they appeared to take a step forward.
Hamilton battled back mid-season and finally looked on the pace at the British Grand Prix. Hamilton and team-mate George Russell picked up double podium finishes in France and Hungary.
Russell then secured the team’s only win of the season in Brazil, reigniting hope for 2023. But the squad suffered a disappointing pre-season with Russell plagued by a hydraulics failure.
They also lacked pace at the season-opening Grand Prix as Aston Martin leapt ahead.
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There were fears in the camp that Red Bull could have around a 1.5 seconds per lap advantage. But, these worries have never come to fruition with Mercedes back in the fight in Australia.
The team’s trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin revealed the Brackley-based team had altered set-ups in a bid to get around some of their issues. He commented: “The pace of the car has been better than at the first two races; we’ve made some changes to the setup for the circuit but hopefully we can take some of that learning into the upcoming races.”
The duo qualified P2 and P3 in Melbourne and even leapt ahead of Verstappen at the first start to give Red Bull some problems. Russell stressed the team still had “work to do” to close the gap to Red Bull but Hamilton has started to sound more optimistic about the challenge.
The ex-Williams driver remarked: “We’ve just got to keep fighting. A big thank you to all the people back at the factory. We can close that gap; it’s going to be tough but not impossible.” What’s for sure, Verstappen shouldn’t be lapping Hamilton any time soon again.
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