Lewis Hamilton said he chose to turn his back on Mercedes and join rivals Ferrari to write “a new chapter” in his record-breaking career.

The seven-time world champion was speaking for the first time at length since his shock blockbuster move to the Italian giants in 2025 was confirmed earlier this month.

Hamilton’s soon-to-be Ferrari team led the way on the concluding day of this week’s test in Bahrain, with Charles Leclerc seeing off Mercedes’ George Russell by just 0.046 seconds.

But it is Max Verstappen’s Red Bull team who head into next Saturday’s curtain raiser, also in the Gulf kingdom, as the favourites, despite the ongoing investigation into their embattled team principal Christian Horner. Horner continues to deny the claims against him.

Hamilton, who joined Mercedes from McLaren in 2013, signed a two-year contract extension with the Silver Arrows only last August.

But over the winter he elected to terminate his £100million deal 12 months early to make the switch.

“Obviously in the summer we signed and at that time I saw my future with Mercedes,” Hamilton explained. “But an opportunity came up in the new year and I decided to take it.

“I feel like it was the hardest decision I have ever had to make. I have had a relationship with Mercedes since I was 13. They have supported me and we have had an incredible journey together and created history within the sport. It is something I take a lot of pride in.

“But ultimately I am writing my story and I felt like it was time to start a new chapter.”

Mercedes have carried Hamilton to six of his record-equalling seven titles.

But last year marked a second straight season without a victory for the British driver – a losing streak which now stands at 45 races – and Mercedes’ first winless campaign in a dozen years.

Ferrari have not won a drivers’ championship since Kimi Raikkonen triumphed for them in 2007.

And two decades will have passed since Michael Schumacher took his fifth consecutive title for the team in 2004 when Hamilton links up with Ferrari at the start of next year.

“All of us sit in our garages and you see the screen pop up, you see a driver in the red cockpit and you wonder what it will be like to be surrounded by the red,” added Hamilton.

“You go to the Italian Grand Prix and you see the sea of red of Ferrari fans and you can only stand in awe of that.

“It is a team that has not had huge success since Michael’s days and I see it as a huge challenge.

“As a kid I used to to play the Grand Prix 2 computer game as Michael in that (Ferrari) car. It is definitely a dream and I am really excited about it.”

Hamilton said the biggest transfer in F1 history would not have happened if Fred Vasseur – the Frenchman who played a prominent role in his formative career – had not been appointed as Ferrari team principal last year.

Hamilton continued: “I have got a great relationship with Fred. I raced for him in Formula Three and we had amazing success in Formula Three and GP2 and that is where the foundation of our relationship started.

“We always remained in touch. I thought he was going to be an amazing team manager at some stage and progress to Formula One. It was really cool to see him at Alfa Romeo and when he got the job at Ferrari I was just so happy for him. The stars aligned and it would not have happened without him.”

As for learning the lingo, the Stevenage-born racer, added: “In all these years I have not managed to learn other languages, but I will definitely try. I do remember when I was younger and karting in Italy I was able to pick up a few lines. Hopefully that will come back to me.”

Ferrari might have finished on top on Friday, but the consensus in the paddock is that Red Bull have significantly improved the machine which won all bar one of the 22 rounds last year.

“Our car is more enjoyable to drive and it is an improvement,” said Hamilton. “But we still have some time to find. Red Bull are out in the distance.”

Ominously, Verstappen, bidding to win his fourth straight title, said: “For sure, the car is better than it was last year.”

Lewis Hamilton said his Mercedes exit to join Ferrari is because he believes it is time to write “a new chapter” in his record-breaking career.

Hamilton was speaking for the first time at length since his blockbuster move to the Italian giants in 2025 was confirmed earlier this month.

The 39-year-old, who joined Mercedes from McLaren in 2013, signed a two-year contract extension only last August.

But over the winter he elected to terminate his £100million deal 12 months early to make the switch.

“Obviously in the summer we signed and at that time I saw my future with Mercedes,” said Hamilton as he opened up on his decision to make the move to Ferrari.

“But an opportunity came up in the New Year and I decided to take it. I feel like it was the hardest decision I have ever had to make.

“I have had a relationship with Mercedes since I was 13. They have supported me, and we have had an incredible journey together, created history within the sport and it is something I take a lot of pride in.

“But ultimately I am writing my story, and I felt like it was time to start a new chapter.”

Christian Horner wants his Red Bull future to be resolved “as soon as possible” as the embattled team principal fights to save his Formula One career.

Red Bull Racing’s parent company Red Bull GmbH announced on February 5 that Horner is being investigated following an accusation of “inappropriate behaviour” by a female colleague. Horner denies the claim.

Horner addressed the media alongside four other F1 team principals on the second day of this week’s three-day test in Bahrain on Thursday. The new season starts in the Gulf kingdom next Saturday.

Asked why he has not moved aside as team principal and chief executive of Red Bull Racing with the investigation under way, Horner replied: “As you are well aware there is a process going on which I form part of, and as I form part of that process, I am afraid I cannot comment on it.”

Horner was then asked if he could provided a timeline as to when the investigation might be over.

The 50-year-old added: “I am dreadfully sorry but I really can’t comment on the process or the timescale.

“Everybody would like a conclusion as soon as possible. But I am really not at liberty to comment about the process.”

Sources have indicated to the PA news agency that there could be a resolution before the opening race on March 2.

On Wednesday, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff called for Red Bull’s probe to be transparent, and said the controversy is “an issue for all of Formula One”.

McLaren chief executive Zak Brown, speaking in the same press conference as Horner on Thursday, echoed Wolff’s comments.

“The allegations are extremely serious,” said Brown. “McLaren hold themselves to the highest standards of diversity, equality and inclusion.

“These are extremely important to us and our partners, and to everyone in Formula One.

“Red Bull Corporation has launched an investigation, and all we hope and assume is that it will be handled in a very transparent way, and as the FIA and Formula One has said, swiftly, because these are not the headlines that Formula One wants or needs at this time.”

Red Bull won all but one of the 22 races last year as Max Verstappen stormed to the world championship.

The Dutch driver, in his heavily upgraded machine, set an impressive pace on the opening day in Bahrain, finishing 1.1 seconds clear of anyone else.

Mercedes’ George Russell said: “Red Bull are definitely the favourites and definitely a step ahead of everyone here in Bahrain. They have had an impressive winter, no doubt.

“Hopefully Red Bull are already in that sweet spot, and we can close the gap, but it is going to take a lot of hard work to do so.”

Formula One’s second morning of testing was cancelled after a loose drain cover struck Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes and the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc.

Both Hamilton and Leclerc hit the debris at Turn 11 in Bahrain, and the running was red-flagged with one hour and 40 minutes remaining.

Circuit officials attempted to repair the track, but after a delay of nearly 40 minutes, it was announced that the running would not resume.

The one-hour lunch break, was brought forward by an hour. The afternoon session will now run for five hours, instead of four, starting one hour earlier than planned at 2pm local time (11am GMT).

Ferrari said the impact caused damage to the floor of Leclerc’s Ferrari, which has since been replaced.

It is unclear at this stage how extensive the damage was to Hamilton’s Mercedes.

Both Hamilton and Leclerc were unharmed in the incidents.

Last November, a water valve cover broke free from the newly-laid tarmac of the Las Vegas street circuit and tore into the underbelly of Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari at 210mph.

Speaking at the time, Ferrari team principal Fred Vasseur called the incident “unacceptable”.

Hamilton, competing in his final season for Mercedes ahead of his switch to Ferrari, is scheduled to be behind the wheel of his new machine all day. He was sixth when the red flag was deployed.

Max Verstappen finished fastest on Wednesday. The test concludes on Friday ahead of next Saturday’s first round of the season, also in the Gulf kingdom.

Formula One’s second morning of testing was cancelled after a loose drain cover struck Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes and the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc.

Both Hamilton and Leclerc hit the debris at Turn 11 in Bahrain, and the running was red-flagged with one hour and 40 minutes remaining.

Circuit officials attempted to repair the track, but after a delay of nearly 40 minutes, it was announced that the running would not resume.

The one-hour lunch break, was brought forward by an hour. The afternoon session will now run for five hours, instead of four, starting one hour earlier than planned at 2pm local time (11am GMT).

Ferrari said the impact caused damage to the floor of Leclerc’s Ferrari, which has since been replaced.

It is unclear at this stage how extensive the damage was to Hamilton’s Mercedes.

Both Hamilton and Leclerc were unharmed in the incidents.

Last November, a water valve cover broke free from the newly-laid tarmac of the Las Vegas street circuit and tore into the underbelly of Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari at 210mph.

Speaking at the time, Ferrari team principal Fred Vasseur called the incident “unacceptable”.

Hamilton, competing in his final season for Mercedes ahead of his switch to Ferrari, is scheduled to be behind the wheel of his new machine all day. He was sixth when the red flag was deployed.

Max Verstappen finished fastest on Wednesday. The test concludes on Friday ahead of next Saturday’s first round of the season, also in the Gulf kingdom.

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has called for Red Bull’s investigation into Christian Horner to be transparent – and said the controversy is “an issue for all of Formula One”.

Horner is under investigation by the racing team’s parent company Red Bull GmbH following a claim of “inappropriate behaviour” by a female colleague.

The 50-year-old emphatically denies the accusation and remains in his role as Red Bull team principal.

He is in Bahrain for this week’s three-day test ahead of the opening race, also in the Gulf Kingdom, on March 2.

And Horner has stated it is his intention to be in his post for the start of the new campaign.

“It is clear,” Wolff said when asked to address the allegations during the lunch interval on the first day of testing.

“Formula One and the teams stand for inclusion, equality, fairness and diversity, and that is not only about talking about it, but living it day in, day out. These are just standards we set ourselves.

“We are a global sport and one of the most important sport platforms in the world and role models, too.

“But having said that, there is a lot of speculation that has been happening over the past weeks, and lots of things that are going on.

“What is important at that stage is for a process with rigour. I think what Red Bull has started as an independent investigation, if this is done in the right way, with transparency, that is something we need to look at.

“What the outcomes are, what it means for Formula One, and how we can learn from that because we want to talk about racing cars, and we want to talk about the sport, rather than these very, very critical topics that are more than just a team issue.

“It is phenomenon, and an issue for all of Formula One, and every individual that works out there.”

Horner is due to be in the media spotlight at an F1 press conference alongside four other team principals on Thursday.

Speaking at Red Bull’s car launch, last week, Horner said he was unable to provide a timeline as to when the investigation will be completed.

It is understood both Red Bull and Horner are keen for a swift resolution, but sources have indicated that a conclusion is not imminent. F1 bosses have called for the controversy to be “clarified at the earliest opportunity”.

Max Verstappen put Red Bull’s off-track troubles to one side by setting the pace in the opening session on Wednesday.

The three-time world champion ended the running nearly seven tenths quicker than Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, with Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso in third, eight tenths back, and the only other driver within one second of Verstappen.

George Russell was sixth for Mercedes, 1.68 secs off the pace. Lewis Hamilton gets his first taste of the final Mercedes he will drive on Thursday ahead of his blockbuster switch to Ferrari next year.

Max Verstappen put Red Bull’s off-track troubles to one side by setting the pace in the opening testing session in Bahrain.

Red Bull’s preparations for the new campaign have been overshadowed by allegations of “inappropriate behaviour” against team principal Christian Horner.

Horner, who is in Bahrain for this week’s three-day test ahead of the opening round, also in the Gulf kingdom, on March 2, emphatically denies the accusations made by a female colleague.

Verstappen won 19 of the 22 races last season as he wrapped up his third world championship, and the Dutch driver laid down an early marker by topping the time charts in his heavily revised Red Bull.

The 26-year-old ended the running nearly seven tenths quicker than Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, with Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso in third, eight tenths back, and the only other driver within one second of Verstappen.

McLaren’s Oscar Piastri finished fourth, while George Russell was sixth for Mercedes, 1.68 secs off the pace.

Lewis Hamilton gets his first taste of the last Mercedes he will drive on Thursday ahead of his blockbuster switch to Ferrari next year.

Although headline times in testing have to be treated with a degree of caution – as the teams trial different fuel loads and tyre compounds – Verstappen appeared settled in the machine he hopes will carry him to a fourth consecutive title.

His lap count of 65 was more than a race distance in Bahrain. Alonso (77 laps) managed the most miles of the 10 drivers on track.

During a relatively trouble-free first session for the majority of the field, Alex Albon broke down in his Williams following a reliability failure with 20 minutes remaining.

The final four hours of the opening day begins at 1500 local time (1200GMT).

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner will be in Bahrain for Formula One’s first day of testing on Wednesday.

The 50-year-old is fighting to save his career in the sport following an allegation of “inappropriate behaviour” by a female colleague. Horner categorically denies the claims.

The PA news agency understands Horner, who remains under investigation by the racing team’s parent company Red Bull GmbH, is due to arrive in the Gulf kingdom on Tuesday evening.

Max Verstappen will take to the wheel of the Red Bull he hopes will carry him to a fourth straight world championship on Wednesday – the first of three days of testing – and Horner is set to be in the paddock to oversee his superstar driver in action.

Horner is also due to speak at an F1 press conference alongside four other team principals a day later.

The opening round of this season’s championship takes place in Bahrain on March 2.

Speaking at Red Bull Racing’s car launch in Milton Keynes last week, Horner insisted he would be in his position for the first race.

Horner said he was unable to provide a timeline as to when the investigation will be completed.

It is understood both Red Bull and Horner are keen for a swift resolution, but sources have indicated that a conclusion is not imminent.

F1 bosses have called for the controversy to be “clarified at the earliest opportunity”.

Last season Red Bull won all but one of the 22 races, with Verstappen taking his third world championship in as many years.

Speaking last week, a defiant Horner said: “The process has been going on in the background.

“Obviously, there’s been a day job to be getting on with, which is gearing up for the season ahead of us.

“I am confident in the process, which I have fully complied with and will continue to do so, and absolutely deny any of the allegations that have been made against me.

“For me, it is business as normal. If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t be here.”

Formula One’s governing body, the FIA, said it will not comment on Christian Horner’s future until Red Bull’s investigation has been concluded – but added it “remains committed to upholding the highest standards of integrity, fairness and inclusivity within the sport”.

Horner’s role as Red Bull team principal remains in the balance following a claim of “inappropriate behaviour” by a female colleague. Horner emphatically denies the allegations.

On Sunday, F1 bosses called for the controversy to be “clarified at the earliest opportunity”. The new season gets under way on March 2.

A statement from the FIA on Monday read: “In relation to the independent investigation currently being undertaken by Red Bull GMbH, the FIA reiterates that until such time as the investigation has concluded and the outcome is known, we will not be commenting further.

“The FIA remains committed to upholding the highest standards of integrity, fairness and inclusivity within the sport.”

Speaking at Red Bull Racing’s car launch in Milton Keynes last Thursday, Horner, 50, insisted he would be in Bahrain for the opening race.

Horner said he was unable to provide a timeline as to when the investigation by the racing team’s parent company, Red Bull GmBH, will be completed.

It is understood both Red Bull and Horner are keen for a swift resolution and sources have indicated to the PA news agency that there could yet be a conclusion by the end of the week.

However, it is thought unlikely that a verdict will be found before this week’s three-day test in Bahrain which starts on Wednesday.

An F1 spokesperson said: “We have noted that Red Bull has instigated an independent investigation into internal allegations at Red Bull Racing.

“We hope that the matter will be clarified at the earliest opportunity, after a fair and thorough process, and we will not comment further at this time.”

Last season Red Bull won all but one of the 22 races, with Max Verstappen taking his third world championship in as many years.

A defiant Christian Horner said he will not be forced out of Red Bull – and vowed to be in his post as team principal for the first Formula One race of the season.

Horner broke his silence on Thursday after an investigation was launched into an allegation of “inappropriate behaviour” against him by a female colleague.

The 50-year-old, speaking at Red Bull’s car launch in Milton Keynes, revealed he had been “overwhelmed” by messages of goodwill from within the sport, and said his wife, former Spice Girls singer Geri Halliwell, has been “very supportive”.

He also continued to emphatically deny the allegations made against him.

Asked if he will be in Bahrain for the first round of Max Verstappen’s championship defence on March 2, Horner replied: “Yes. I will be in Bahrain.

“The process has been going on in the background. Obviously, there’s been a day job to be getting on with, which is gearing up for the season ahead of us.

“I have a hugely supportive family, a very supportive wife. I have felt the support from within the business and our partners, and the support from within the industry has been overwhelming, too.

“I am confident in the process, which I have fully complied with and will continue to do so, and absolutely deny any of the allegations that have been made against me.

“For me, it is business as normal. If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t be here.”

Direct questions relating to the internal investigation launched by Red Bull Racing’s parent company Red Bull GmBH – which leaves Horner’s career in the balance – were strictly off-limits.

Horner has been in charge of the F1 team for two decades, but he insisted the investigation has not forced him to ponder resigning.

“Not at all, absolutely not,” said Horner when asked if he had considered his role as team principal and chief executive of the racing team.

“I am fully committed. I built this team. I convinced people to come and work here.

“I’ve been here since the beginning. There have been highs and lows along the way. We have won 113 races. We have won seven drivers’ world championships. We’ve won six constructors’ world championships in 19 seasons, and that’s in the history books.

“But it’s about what lies ahead, because that’s what’s important. So my focus is on the future.”

There had been a strong desire for Horner’s future to be concluded before Thursday’s presentation which marked the 20th anniversary of Red Bull’s involvement as a constructor in the sport.

Horner, who was quizzed by a lawyer for eight hours last Friday, said he did not know when the probe will be concluded.

There will be three days of testing, starting next Wednesday, in Bahrain ahead of the first race, also in the Gulf kingdom. And sources have indicated Horner could face further rounds of questioning as he bids to prove his innocence.

The investigation against Horner has undoubtedly overshadowed the world champions’ preparations for the forthcoming campaign.

Last year, Red Bull won all but one of the 22 races, with Verstappen taking his third world title in as many years.

But the Dutch driver, 26, said: “I don’t feel it (the investigation) has been a distraction.

“Everyone is very focused and very motivated. The spirit in the team has been fantastic. It’s been honestly better than ever.”

Pressed on his relationship with Horner, the triple world champion added: “It is very good.

“We’ve seen each other quite a few times. We’ve achieved a lot of things together so that doesn’t change suddenly.

“My contact with Christian has been the same as on the first day. It’s been like normal.”

Max Verstappen believes Lewis Hamilton’s swansong season with Mercedes will be “awkward” following his rival’s 2025 transfer to Ferrari.

Hamilton stunned the sporting world by ditching Mercedes – the constructor which has carried him to six of his record-equalling seven world championships – in favour of a move to Ferrari next year.

On Wednesday, the 39-year-old Briton made his first public appearance since news of his shock transfer broke. Hamilton said he is determined to fire Mercedes back to former glories before he trades silver for red.

But speaking at Red Bull’s car launch on Thursday, reigning world champion Verstappen believes Mercedes will be forced to omit Hamilton from some meetings during the forthcoming 24-round campaign.

“For the rest of the year, I would say it’s a little bit awkward,” said Verstappen.

“It’s not like they are suddenly enemies. He has achieved so many great things with them. They are still behind him, and for sure he has a great relationship with everyone, especially (Mercedes team principal) Toto (Wolff).

“But he knows at one point, and Toto for sure will tell him: ‘Look, I know we’ve had all this success, but you can’t be part of certain meetings any more’.

“That is normal in F1. It’s probably a bit weird. But you are professional enough to deal with that. And once he’s sitting in the car, they will of course go flat out for him.”

Verstappen, who last year claimed 19 victories from 22 rounds as he secured his third successive title, also believes Hamilton and Ferrari were forced to reveal the tie-up sooner than they would have wished.

The Red Bull star added: “It must have been leaked to announce something that big that early in the season.

“Him going to Ferrari is not really shocking. It’s not a surprise they were talking. I just think the announcement was a bit rushed.”

Verstappen, who gets his first taste of this season’s Red Bull when testing begins in Bahrain next Wednesday, opens his bid to become a four-time world champion at the first race, also in the Gulf kingdom, on March 2.

Christian Horner will face the media on Thursday as an investigation into an allegation of “inappropriate behaviour” against the Red Bull team principal continues.

The embattled boss is due to attend the world champions’ car launch at their Milton Keynes headquarters in what will be his first public appearance since the accusation by a female colleague surfaced at the beginning of last week. Horner, 50, categorically denies the claim.

For now, Horner remains in his role as team principal and was present at a behind-closed-doors Red Bull test at Silverstone on Tuesday ahead of the new season which starts in just over a fortnight.

Red Bull will unveil their new car on Thursday and Horner is expected to address the media – although the PA news agency understands legalities around the process mean that questions relating to the internal investigation will be off-limits.

Last week, Horner was quizzed by a lawyer for eight hours as part of the probe by Red Bull Racing’s parent company Red Bull GmBH.

There had been a strong desire for Horner’s future to be resolved before Thursday’s launch but sources have indicated that he could face further rounds of questioning as he bids to prove his innocence.

Horner has been Red Bull team principal since they entered F1 19 years ago and is the longest-serving boss on the grid.

During that period he has overseen seven drivers’ world championships and six constructors’ titles. Red Bull have dominated the sport in recent seasons and last year won 21 of the 22 races, with Max Verstappen setting a new record for 10 consecutive victories.

Lando Norris insists he can take the championship fight to Max Verstappen after declaring the Dutchman’s Red Bull team as “beatable”.

McLaren emerged as the closest contender to Red Bull last year following an impressive mid-season turnaround with Norris scoring seven podiums.

The 24-year-old, gearing up for his sixth season on the Formula One grid, last month committed his future to McLaren by signing a contract extension which will keep him with the British team for at least the next three seasons.

Red Bull won all but one of the 22 rounds last season, with Verstappen cruising to his third world title in as many years.

But speaking at McLaren’s car launch on Wednesday, Norris said: “If you were to ask, ‘are Red Bull beatable?’ I am going to have to say ‘yes’.

“We have to believe that because we were very close at times last year and at certain times we did beat them.

“Can we beat them over a season? That is going to be a challenge and very difficult to do because of how well they performed, but I am optimistic.”

Norris and team-mate Oscar Piastri, who impressed in his rookie campaign last season, were provided their first taste of this year’s machine at a Silverstone shakedown test on Wednesday.

McLaren team principal Andrea Stella added: “At the start of the season my expectation of Red Bull is that they will enjoy an advantage.

“I say this because they didn’t develop the car very much last year and I would think it is reasonable to expect that they will have accumulated knowledge and development from last season and bring that to the 2024 car.

“If, and I say if, we continue the development rate from 2023 into 2024, then we can be in a strong position. But whether that is enough to challenge Red Bull and the other top teams who have made improvements, we will find out.”

F1’s sole pre-season test gets under way in Bahrain on February 21, ahead of the opening race, also in the Gulf kingdom, on March 2.

Christian Horner will make his first public appearance on Thursday since an investigation was launched into “inappropriate behaviour” against the Red Bull team principal.

The embattled boss is due to attend the world champions’ car launch at their Milton Keynes headquarters following the accusation by a female colleague which surfaced at the beginning of last week. Horner, 50, categorically denies the claim.

For now, Horner remains in his role as team principal and was present at a behind-closed-doors Red Bull test at Silverstone on Tuesday ahead of the new season which starts in just over a fortnight.

Red Bull will unveil their new car on Thursday and Horner is expected to address the media – although the PA news agency understands legalities around the process mean that questions relating to the internal investigation will be off-limits.

Last week, Horner was quizzed by a lawyer for eight hours as part of the probe by Red Bull Racing’s parent company Red Bull GmBH.

There had been a strong desire for Horner’s future to be resolved before Thursday’s launch but sources have indicated that he could face further rounds of questioning as he bids to prove his innocence.

Horner has been Red Bull team principal since they entered F1 19 years ago and is the longest-serving boss on the grid.

During that period he has overseen seven drivers’ world championships and six constructors’ titles. Red Bull have dominated the sport in recent seasons and last year won 21 of the 22 races, with Max Verstappen setting a new record for 10 consecutive victories.

Lewis Hamilton is determined to fire Mercedes back to former glories as he gears up for his season swansong before quitting for Ferrari.

Hamilton stunned the sporting world by ditching Mercedes – the constructor which has carried him to six of his record-equalling seven world championships – in favour of a move to their rivals next year.

On Wednesday, the 39-year-old made his first public appearance since news of his shock transfer broke.

Standing alongside team principal Toto Wolff, Hamilton faced just three questions from Mercedes’ in-house moderator in a nine-minute, no-frills and perhaps awkward – given the rawness of the British driver’s decision – car launch.

“The focus through the whole of winter training is getting the team back to where we once were,” said Hamilton.

“We have had these difficult couple of years which have been really grounding for us. It has helped us regroup and really look at things.

“(The last few weeks) have obviously been emotional and it is very surreal to be here.”

Hamilton, who joined Mercedes from McLaren in 2013, signed a two-year contract extension only last August. But over the winter he elected to terminate his £100million deal 12 months early.

Last year marked a second straight season without a victory for Hamilton – a losing streak which now stands at 45 races – and Mercedes’ first winless campaign in a dozen years.

They finished an eye-watering 413 points behind Red Bull while Hamilton, third in the individual standings, was 341 points adrift of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen as the Dutchman secured a hat-trick of world crowns.

Wolff metaphorically conceded at the final round in Abu Dhabi that Mercedes will have to scale Mount Everest to topple Verstappen.

But on Wednesday, Wolff said: “This is a complete relaunch of a car. It is very different, not only aerodynamically but underneath the car too.

“There have been so many mechanical changes which we hope will translate into more performance, more predictability and a car the drivers can really push.

“The most important thing is to look inward and what is it that we got wrong? We found some clues, we tried to eliminate as many variables as we could and the buzz in the company is something I have not seen for so many years.

“We know it is a big mountain to climb because if a team is so far ahead like Red Bull were last year then it is not easy.

“But we have a superb driver combination and hopefully a fast car. There are some good ingredients to be back at the front again.”

The Austrian, informed of Hamilton’s shock transfer only a fortnight ago, added: “It will be our last season with Lewis so we are keen on bringing a quick car.”

Hamilton and team-mate George Russell were given their first taste of their new car during a damp shakedown test at Silverstone.

On Thursday, the spotlight will be back on embattled Red Bull team principal Christian Horner as the world champions present their machine for the new campaign.

Horner is under investigation by the Formula One team’s parent company Red Bull GmBH following an accusation of “inappropriate behaviour” by a female colleague.

Last Friday, Horner was questioned by a lawyer for eight hours. He categorically denies the claim.

Horner remains in his role and he will speak to the media on Thursday at the team’s Milton Keynes HQ – although it is understood legalities around the process mean that questions relating to the internal investigation will be off-limits.

F1’s sole pre-season test gets under way in Bahrain on February 21, ahead of the opening race, also in the Gulf kingdom, on March 2.

Page 1 of 76
© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.