Lewis Hamilton ‘super-focused’ on earning F1 title rematch with Max Verstappen

By Sports Desk June 04, 2023

Lewis Hamilton has vowed to continue in Formula One for as long as he can in order to challenge Max Verstappen for the world championship again.

Hamilton finished runner-up to Verstappen at Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix as the Red Bull star delivered another knockout display to claim his fifth win from seven rounds. George Russell completed the podium positions on a strong afternoon for Mercedes.

The seven-time world champion’s contract expires at the end of the year, but the 38-year-old revealed on Sunday night that he is meeting Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff on Monday to thrash out a new deal.

 

The British driver is in the leanest spell of his life. Twenty-nine races have passed since he lost to Verstappen at the controversial 2021 season finale in Abu Dhabi, and the record-breaking driver has not won a race since.

 

But following his team’s revitalised performance at the Circuit de Catalunya, Hamilton allowed his mind to wander to the prospect of a title rematch with Verstappen that both he, and the sport, so desperately craves.

“I want to keep going for as long as I can,” said Hamilton, sitting alongside Verstappen.

“But I want to be where he (Verstappen) is, or racing him at least, and I am super-focused on getting to that point. There is a long way to go, but there is time.”

Hamilton will be 39 in January but he remains fuelled by a desire to be crowned champion of the world for a record eighth time.

“My hunger has never shifted,” he added. “I am in a great place in my life, and I am really happy where I am in my life. I have got all the ducks in a row so I can focus.

“I have not signed anything yet, but I am meeting with Toto (on Monday) so hopefully we can get something done.

“We have had so many meetings. And this is another meeting. But the contract is always at the back of your mind, so once it is done then I can focus more on the future.”

Verstappen might have finished 24 seconds up the road, but the feeling in the Mercedes camp is that they might have turned the corner following a turbulent period for the grid’s once-dominant team.

In the days leading up to Sunday’s race, Hamilton said their revamped machine – which made its debut in Monaco a week ago – had not provided him with the step forward he wanted.

But this was Mercedes’ strongest display of the year. Hamilton breezed past Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll and Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz to take second, while team-mate Russell waltzed his way through the field from his lowly starting slot of 12th.

“It is definitely the best the car has been for the past year and a half,” Hamilton added. “That is kudos to the amazing group of people back at the factory.

“It is super-encouraging, not only for me, but for everyone in the team. This is a big boost for everybody’s morale and we are going to take that energy on to developing the car.

“I know we have something in the pipeline moving forward and I am hoping by the end of the year we can challenge.

“Red Bull are so far ahead and Max will continue to win this year. That means they can start on their development for next year, if they have not already, and that is the danger.”

Red Bull have won all seven rounds this year, and 17 of the last 18 races contested, and their stranglehold on the sport shows few signs of easing.

A day on from crushing his opposition to take pole, Verstappen held off the advances off Sainz on the long run to the opening corner and from there, his 40th career victory – which takes him just one shy of Ayrton Senna’s career tally – never looked in doubt.

After Sergio Perez fought back from 11th to fourth, Verstappen’s title lead over his Red Bull team-mate now stands at 53 points, with a week off before the next round in Canada on June 18.

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  • We will be back says Perez following Canadian Grand Prix incident We will be back says Perez following Canadian Grand Prix incident

    Sergio Perez has apologised following a second successive retirement at the Canada Grand Prix which left him 87 points behind Red Bull team-mate, Max Vertsappen.

    The 34-year-old remained fifth overall in the world championship and a point behind Ferrari's Carlos Sainz, who was one of five drivers that failed to finish the race. 

    In difficult conditions in Montreal, the Mexican started 16th but hopes of climbing up the pecking order soon faded after damaging his car's front wing on the opening lap when he made contact with Alpine's Pierre Gasly.

    He then crashed into the barriers late in the day after losing control on a damp kerb at turn six, hobbling back to the pits with a broken rear wing. 

    "I'm very sorry for my team, I let them down today. But we will come back no doubt. There’s a very long way to go," Perez said on social media.

    His final incident cost him a three-place grid penalty for the next race in Barcelona, with the stewards punishing him for a breach of the safety rules that require a driver to stop if the car is unsafe.

    "The incident was on me, I touched the wet part into turn six and I couldn’t stop the car, I couldn’t touch the brakes," Perez said on Sunday.

    "It has been a very tough couple of weekends, we will regroup, keep our heads down and learn from the weekend. We identified a couple of issues after qualifying and they meant we would have qualified a lot higher.

    "Hopefully we can be back to our form in Spain and get back to the level we were at earlier in the season. I am confident in that, there are good tracks coming for us."

    Perez recently signed a new two-year deal with Red Bull, ending speculation that the world champions will sign free agent Sainz ahead of the new season. 

  • We will be back says Perez following Canadian Grand Prix We will be back says Perez following Canadian Grand Prix

    Sergio Perez has apologised following a second successive retirement at the Canada Grand Prix which left him 87 points behind Red Bull team-mate, Max Vertsappen.

    The 34-year-old remained fifth overall in the world championship and a point behind Ferrari's Carlos Sainz, who was one of five drivers that failed to finish the race. 

    In difficult conditions in Montreal, the Mexican started 16th but hopes of climbing up the pecking order soon faded after damaging his car's front wing on the opening lap when he made contact with Alpine's Pierre Gasly.

    He then crashed into the barriers late in the day after losing control on a damp kerb at turn six, hobbling back to the pits with a broken rear wing. 

    "I'm very sorry for my team, I let them down today. But we will come back no doubt. There’s a very long way to go," Perez said on social media.

    His final incident cost him a three-place grid penalty for the next race in Barcelona, with the stewards punishing him for a breach of the safety rules that require a driver to stop if the car is unsafe.

    "The incident was on me, I touched the wet part into turn six and I couldn’t stop the car, I couldn’t touch the brakes," Perez said on Sunday.

    "It has been a very tough couple of weekends, we will regroup, keep our heads down and learn from the weekend. We identified a couple of issues after qualifying and they meant we would have qualified a lot higher.

    "Hopefully we can be back to our form in Spain and get back to the level we were at earlier in the season. I am confident in that, there are good tracks coming for us."

    Perez recently signed a new two-year deal with Red Bull, ending speculation that the world champions will sign free agent Sainz ahead of the new season. 

  • Canadian Grand Prix 'an opportunity missed', admits Russell Canadian Grand Prix 'an opportunity missed', admits Russell

    George Russell secured Mercedes their first podium of the Formula One season at the Canadian Grand Prix, but felt his third-place finish was a missed opportunity.

    The British driver was on pole for the first time since the Hungarian Grand Prix in 2022 and led for the first 21 laps before being overtaken in quick succession by McLaren's Lando Norris and eventual winner, Max Verstappen. 

    In a contest that saw the drivers endure difficult conditions and in which five cars failed to finish, Russell did manage to regain first place from his compatriot on lap 27 following the safety car being deployed, but again found himself chasing Norris after running wide. 

    He dropped to fourth behind Oscar Piastri, but would reclaim a podium place with his fresh medium tyres for the closing laps, enough to get past the Australian and team-mate Lewis Hamilton, who were on the hard compounds.

    Red Bull's Verstappen claimed his sixth victory of the season, extending his championship lead over Ferrari's Charles Leclerc to 56 points after a weekend to forget for the Italian team. 

    Speaking after the race, Russell believed he had the pace to catch the Dutchman before his coming together with Piastri, but enjoyed being back at the front of the pecking order despite admitting to a few mistakes. 

    "It feels like a missed opportunity, to be honest," said Russell shortly after the conclusion of the race. "We were really quick at the beginning of the race on the inters, and then obviously Lando came through really fast.

    "Then we got back on to the slicks, made a couple of mistakes out there just pushing the limits and paid the price for it.

    "Nevertheless, first podium of the year and we truly had a really fast car this weekend and to be back in the mix fighting for victory was really fun.

    "When we put the mediums on at the end we were really, really fast and I think that mistake with Oscar when I tried overtaking him and I lost the position to Lewis cost us at least P2 and maybe we could have fought with Max later in the race."

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