Hamilton already plotting greater challenge to Red Bull in 2023 as Verstappen takes title

By Sports Desk October 09, 2022

Lewis Hamilton is adamant Mercedes will have a better car next season that should allow them to provide a greater challenge to Red Bull after Max Verstappen wrapped up the 2022 Formula One title.

Verstappen won a second successive championship on Sunday thanks to victory in the Japanese Grand Prix combined with his rival Charles Leclerc receiving a five-second penalty that demoted him to third.

Initially there was confusion over whether full points were to be awarded as the normal race distance was not completed due to a lengthy rain delay, with even Verstappen suggesting the title was not his yet at first.

After several minutes, Verstappen's success was confirmed as the Dutchman retained his crown with four races to spare, far more straightforward than last season when he only moved ahead of Hamilton at the end of a controversial final grand prix.

But Mercedes have never really been a threat to Verstappen this year, with George Russell fourth in the standings and Hamilton a further two places down the ladder – neither driver has claimed a single victory in 2022.

Hamilton congratulated Verstappen afterwards but swiftly turned his attention to 2023, optimistic Mercedes can build a car that is not dogged by the design issues the W13 car has had following the introduction of new technical regulations.

"Congrats to Max," Hamilton said, before refocusing on Mercedes.

"I think for us, we know what the problems are with this car. I believe that we as a team, we've not gone from being world champions to not being able to build a good car.

"I have no doubts we'll build a better car next year.

"Whether or not we rectify every issue from the car this year, we'll find out when we get there."

Hamilton finished fifth in Suzuka, spending much of the shortened race stuck behind Esteban Ocon, who held on to take fourth.

Despite what many might have perceived as a frustrating day for the seven-time world champion, Hamilton insisted he had "a blast".

"I don't feel frustrated," he told Sky Sports. "It was a sprint race. I think I did the best I could and I'm happy we got some points.

"We were just so slow in a straight line. I was getting close, as close as I could, and as soon as I pulled out, they would just pull away.

"I wish it was a longer race. I'm glad we got some laps for the fans here, although it's not really a massive race for them considering how long they've waited.

"In terms of the conditions, the restarting was awesome. That's what motor racing is about. I had a blast. It was so tough, so hard to see. Really hard to see the car skating around, but that's motor racing.

"I think the restart we had at the end was the perfect time and I just wish we could have gone longer into a bit of the dark."

F1 now heads to the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas for the United States Grand Prix on October 23.

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    The 24-year-old finished in the top two of the previous three grand prix, claiming his maiden victory in Miami.

    He threatened to finish ahead of Max Verstappen for a second time at Imola last Sunday with a late charge, but finished within one second of the Red Bull driver.

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    Before the race at Imola, Norris said he believed McLaren were not quite ready to challenge Red Bull for the title this year.

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    "But also, Monaco is a place where anything can happen. So, I would never say 'no' anymore.

    "I've got fed up of myself kind of underestimating what we can achieve as a team. So, we're going to come in, we're positive, we've had a very good run of results - second, first, second - and there's no reason why we shouldn't be able to continue that here in Monaco.

    "It's not known to be our best track but, at the same time, anything can happen."

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    Russell was ahead of Hamilton as his tyres began to wear late in the race, leading Mercedes to call him in for a pit stop and bring him out ahead of eighth-placed Sergio Perez.

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    Russell is currently seventh in the drivers' championship standings with Hamilton in eighth, with neither driver managing a podium finish so far this year.

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    "This is where we are right now, a little bit in no man's land behind the Ferraris and McLarens but ahead of the midfield," Russell said of their struggles.

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