Lewis Hamilton on difficult season for Mercedes in November
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F1 star Charles Leclerc has backed Lewis Hamilton to be in the title race this year. The seven-time world champion had his first winless season in the sport in 2022, while Leclerc finished third after initially battling Max Verstapen for the crown. Mercedes meanwhile recorded just one victory last season, with George Russell taking the chequered flag at the Brazilian Grand Prix.
But Leclerc has every faith Hamilton will be back fighting for the title if his new car is competitive, following the unveiling of Mercedes’ new W14 for 2023. “Lewis will never be out of of question for championship fights,” the Ferrari driver insisted to Sky Sports. “I’m pretty sure that if he has the car, he will be there.
“We must not forget what he has achieved in the sport and he still has it. We’ve seen it plenty of times last year. So no, Lewis will be there, like Red Bull will be too, and I hope it’s going to be a great fight.” The 25-year-old opinion was shared by Red Bull’s Verstappen, who is aiming to win his third world title in a row. He’s one of the greatest drivers ever in the sport. If he has the car to do it, he can fight for the title again.”
Hamilton and Russell were in attendance as Mercedes unveiled their new challenger at the swanky launch event on Wednesday, with the Silver Arrows opting for an all-black livery design for the first time since the 2021 campaign.
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The 38-year-old confidently stated he is ready to put the challenges of last year in the rearview mirror as he looks to return to the summit of F1. “To see the evolution of the car and the changes that have been made is fascinating,” said Hamilton.
“We’ve redesigned, optimised, and innovated so many parts of the car and that is impressive. And I love the new livery! It says: ‘We mean business’. I’m excited to go racing again. I feel calm, energised, and have my focus sharpened. I’m ready to do what’s necessary to win.”
Hamilton, who is out of contract at the end of this year, remains more determined than ever as he enters his 11th year with Mercedes.
“I have been here a long time,” he added. “I love being a part of a team that is working towards a common goal. I continue to love racing, that will never change, it is a part of my DNA and I always believe I can get better.
“I love that challenge, the mental and the physical element of it, of just having to do a deep dive and see if you can extract more performance from yourself and the people around you, from the car that is constantly evolving. It is not the same car every year, it is always changing, there are always new tools, always a new log book you have to get used to and I love that, so I am planning to stay a little longer.”
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff revealed he and Hamilton have had their first chat regarding a new contract for the Brit. However, the Austrian stressed there was no deadline in place to seal a deal. “We’ve done a few of these contracts in the past, and they change little from iteration to iteration, so it’s not usually complex apart from the obvious terms,” he told Autosport.
“We’ve always found good solutions that reflect his value for the team and for the sport, and on the other side, I think Mercedes is the place he wants to be. These things have never been a contentious point. Within us, it was no problem to sort things out over the winter before actually going racing, because it was always clear they were going to do that. It’s almost not like a first priority in sitting down, because this is going to be a journey that will continue.”
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