Hamilton has no plans to leave but says Mercedes need 'bold decisions'

By Sports Desk March 16, 2023

Lewis Hamilton has no desire to leave Mercedes but urged the team to make "bold decisions" to close the gap upon their Formula One rivals.  

Having won the Constructors' Championship for eight consecutive seasons from 2014, Mercedes conceded their crown to Red Bull last year.

Hopes of reclaiming that honour in 2023 already seem to be dead in the water after just one race, with Mercedes adrift of Red Bull and Ferrari, while also falling behind Aston Martin.

Those disappointments have led to speculation regarding Hamilton's future, with his contract due to expire at the end of the season, and post-race comments in Bahrain added fuel to the fire – having told Mercedes to "own up" to their mistakes.

Hamilton has since admitted his words were not chosen wisely and, speaking ahead of Sunday's Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, he expressed his commitment to Mercedes.

"In hindsight, it wasn't necessarily the best choice of words. Of course there are times when you're not in agreement with certain team members but what's important is we continue to communicate, we continue to work together," he told a press conference.

"I still have 100 per cent belief in this team. It is my family and I've been here a long time, so I don't plan on going anywhere else.

"But we all need a kick, we all need to get in. The proof is in the pudding; we've seen what the performance is and how people are extracting the performance. We've got to now start making some bold decisions, some big moves in order to close the gap to these guys.

"[Red Bull] will run away with it, most likely, this year, unless Ferrari can stop them, which we'll wait and see. But as I said, we're hopeful we'll be able to close the gap, but at that point it will probably be too late in terms of fighting for a championship, but we can still turn some heads."

Hamilton likened Mercedes' position to the one they found themselves in last year and, having seen the team improve slowly throughout that campaign, is optimistic of a similar response.

"We're in a similar mentality to what we were last year, where we're just working as hard as we can as a team, try to remain positive. Obviously it's a shock when you work out the car is not where you want it to be," he added.

"But everyone is working on the solution and I have 100 per cent confidence in everyone doing their job. You don't all of a sudden lose the ability to build great cars. We're just not where we need to be, where we want to be, and we have to keep working on it.

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    George Russell will not "sulk" after giving up sixth place to team-mate Lewis Hamilton at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, where Mercedes failed to arrest their slide.

    Hamilton and Russell finished sixth and seventh respectively as Max Verstappen held off a charging Lando Norris for his third successive victory at the Imola event.

    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.

    That ensured Hamilton finished above his team-mate for a second straight race, having failed to top him in any of the first five races of 2024.

    Russell refused to criticise the team's strategy after the race, though he lamented their continued struggles with their W15 car.

    "You're never going to be happy with P6 and P7," Russell told Sky Sports.

    "At the end of the day, as a team we scored an extra point. I lost my position to Lewis but I'm not going to sulk over losing a P6."

    Asked to explain the decision, Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff said: "[Russell's] lap times were getting slower and slower, and our forecast saw he was not going to make it to the end and we didn't want to lose the position to Perez.

    "Lewis would have probably taken him anyway. The point being that we are racing for P6 and P7 and wanted to keep the Red Bull behind. It was a safety call."

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

    McLaren have emerged as the foremost challengers to Red Bull and Ferrari in recent weeks, leaving Mercedes marooned in a disappointing fourth place in the team standings. 

    "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.

    "Everyone is still super motivated, the morale isn't dropping at all, which is quite inspiring to say. Everyone is trying to make this work and improve it."

  • Norris excited to see McLaren challenging Red Bull Norris excited to see McLaren challenging Red Bull

    Lando Norris is excited to see McLaren emerging as the foremost challengers to Red Bull, after he narrowly missed out on a second straight win at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

    Norris started second at Imola on Sunday as a grid penalty dropped his McLaren team-mate Oscar Piastri to fifth. 

    It initially looked like Norris might face a battle for second as Charles Leclerc closed on him, but he found extraordinary pace late on as leader Max Verstappen started to struggle.

    Verstappen complained of grip problems over team radio as Norris drew within 0.7 seconds of the world champion by the final lap, but he was just unable to pass him in a tense finish.

    "It hurts me to say it, but one or two more laps and I think I would have had him," Norris told Sky Sports. 

    "It's tough. I just lost out too much to Max in the beginning. He was stronger in the first stint.

    "We are at a point now where we can say we are in a position with Ferrari and Red Bull. We have to get used to it. We are fighting for first and second now.

    "It is still a surprise to say we are disappointed not to win, but it is what we should start to expect."

    Norris has now managed four podium finishes in the last five races, and he sits fourth in the drivers' championship standings, six points behind Sergio Perez in third.

    He finished second at the Chinese Grand Prix last month, then beat Verstappen to claim his first race win in Miami in early May, benefitting from effective upgrades to McLaren's MCL38 car.

    "Hopefully, it continues like that because it's exciting, it's tough, and it gets you excited every weekend, so I'm looking forward to the next few," he said.

    "We also had a second in China, so we've had second, first, second, and I think that’s a good sign."

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    Max Verstappen held off a charging Lando Norris on the final lap to get back to winning ways at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix on Sunday.

    Having equalled Ayrton Senna's record of eight successive pole positions on Saturday, the three-time world champion initially looked set for a comfortable victory.

    It looked like third might be the best Norris could manage, but the Briton found great pace late on and ultimately challenged for the win, as Verstappen expressed frustration over Red Bull team radio, saying he was struggling for grip when turning.

    Norris pulled within 0.7 seconds of Verstappen on the final lap, but he was ultimately unable to follow up his win at the Miami Grand Prix last time out as the drivers' championship leader clung on.

    Charles Leclerc captured third for Ferrari in front of an enthusiastic Italian crowd, with Oscar Piastri finishing fourth after his grid penalty meant he started the race fifth instead of second.

    Carlos Sainz was fifth ahead of Mercedes duo Lewis Hamilton and George Russell, with Verstappen's team-mate Sergio Perez only managing eighth, meaning he now trails Leclerc in the standings.

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    On Saturday, Verstappen became the first driver with back-to-back poles at Imola since Michael Schumacher in 2002 and 2003. One day later, he became just the second driver to win on three successive visits to the track, after the German achieved that feat between 2002 and 2004.

    Verstappen is also into the top six in the all-time F1 charts for podium finishes, his 104th here moving him ahead of Kimi Raikkonen outright in the rankings.

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