18 February 2022

Lewis Hamilton: I am ready to attack the new season and fight for more success

18 February 2022

Lewis Hamilton said he is ready to attack the new Formula One season on his return to the public spotlight.

Hamilton, 37, was speaking for the first time since he lost the world championship in controversial circumstances to Max Verstappen in Abu Dhabi on December 12.

The seven-time world champion was disillusioned following the debacle in the desert and, at one stage, it was unclear if he would return to the grid.

Lewis Hamilton says he is ready to attack the new season (Tim Goode/PA) (PA Wire)

“I never ever said I was going to stop,” said Hamilton at Mercedes’ launch.

“I love doing what I do, and it is such a privilege working with this large group of people and you feel like you are part of a family. There is nothing quite like it.”

Hamilton was speaking publicly for the first time since the contentious Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – and a day after Michael Masi was dropped as race director – when Mercedes launched its new car at Silverstone on Friday.

Hamilton said the race at Yas Marina on December 12 was “manipulated” after Masi seemed to bend the rules to allow the British driver’s rival Max Verstappen the chance to win the title following a late safety car.

Reflecting on the moments after the Yas Marina race, Hamilton, who appeared alongside new team-mate George Russell and team boss Toto Wolff, added: “It was a difficult time for me and a time where I needed to take a step back and focus on the present.

“I had my family all around me and creating great memories.

“I eventually got to a point where I decided I would be attacking again coming into another season and working with Toto and George.”

Mercedes have reverted from black – installed for the past two seasons in the fight against racism – to their traditional silver colours for the new campaign.

“It is probably one of the most exciting times,” added Hamilton. “It feels like the first (launch) again.

“It is very surreal to think I have been with Mercedes for 10 years.

“Seeing George have his seat fit at the factory was reminiscent of when I had my first seat fit with Mercedes at 2013. The journey we have been on since is absolutely phenomenal.

“Going into this year, I have not really set any goals. Every individual within this team has worked towards the ultimate goal of winning the world championship and raising the bar and doing something that has not been done before.

“We have done eight [constructors’ titles] and now we have got to move on to the next one.”

Wolff has said he was never worried that Hamilton would quit Formula One.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4, Wolff said: “No, I was never worried – although you have to respect the driver is disillusioned after such an event.

“But we have a strong team and great support so I knew he was going to come back.

“We all were disillusioned because the stopwatch never lies and Lewis was clearly the best guy on track in Abu Dhabi, dominating the race, and then it is taken away by a single individual against all the rules so to digest that is very difficult.

“Like all of us, there was an initial shock. We have never seen anything like that so he had to walk away, and free his mind and think about something else, and start to work on those events and find a solution.”

Masi, who is set to be offered a new position within the FIA, will be replaced by Eduardo Freitas and Niels Wittich.

Max Verstappen won his first Formula One title in controversial circumstances (PA Wire) (PA Wire)

The duo are set to alternate the role and they will be supported by former race director Charlie Whiting’s deputy, 73-year-old Herbie Blash in a total restructure of race control.

Hamilton is set for his 16th campaign. Asked if the record-breaking Briton still has the same enthusiasm, Wolff replied: “Yes. absolutely. He is in love with the sport and we are ready to hunt for victories and hopefully the world championship. He is in the right mindset.

“It was not about the race director, or anybody else, but about Lewis making peace with how the race ended.

“Lewis is all about justice and sporting fairness and that wasn’t the case [in Abu Dhabi]. He needed time to reflect, he comes back strong and is in good spirits.

“The most important thing is that we move on. There has been so much discussion about Abu Dhabi – and for the right reasons because how the Grand Prix ended is not how a Formula One world championship should end – but the FIA has put in a new structure and we are happy about that.”

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