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today is Apr 01, 2023

Lewis Hamilton’s 16th season in Formula 1 last year was a dispiriting campaign which saw him go without a victory for the first time in his career.

But speaking to media including RaceFans during the launch of Mercedes’ new W14 last week the driver who is seeking a record-breaking eighth world championship sounded re-energised and ready for another fight. Here are selected highlights of what he had to say.

Q: It’s your 17th season in Formula 1, you’ve achieved more than many people thought was even possible in the sport. Do you still feel the level of excitement and passion for F1 like you did in the first season?

Hamilton: “Definitely. I wouldn’t say that’s been the case like every single season. But as I said, I had this great break and I can’t remember the last time I felt as excited to get in the car to to even test.

2023 Mercedes W14 - Lewis Hamilton colours Gallery: Mercedes present new W14 F1 car for 2023 season “I’ve done two test days already before this day, which I never do. Tyre tests, at that. So I’m excited, I feel reinvigorated, really excited to work with the team. It’s been great to see just how focussed everybody is, how pumped everyone is.

“Obviously I saw the car in the wind tunnel in December. And then this week is the most exciting week when you see all these pieces come together and then the car just looks streamlined. You can see it’s an evolution. When you have the meeting and the 40, 50 engineers take you through what they’ve done, why they’ve done it, and what we’re hoping to get from that, it’s like Christmas. You’re just waiting to be able open your present and get in.

“And it’s another season. Physically I feel great, I’ve very much focussed on trying to raise the bar in that area. And it’s going to be a challenge, and that’s what I live for.”

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Q: Looking at last year, how have the goals changed? Is it a bit more realistic this year? And will that have any bearing in your on your future and how you move forward if you’re not back up fighting with Red Bull again?

Hamilton accepts Mercedes “perhaps won’t be first out of the gate” Hamilton: “I’ve said it over and over again, but this is family to me. So it’s no coincidence that we’ve won world championships in the past. You don’t all of a sudden just lose the ability to be able to do so.

“I have the utmost confidence in all the people I’ve been around. The place is expanding all the time. The factory is getting bigger, there’s more and more departments and more people joining all the time. So staying on top of that is always tough.

“But when I sit in the office that I’ve been coming to for now the 11th year and we all say ‘jeez, it’s been a long, long time’, but we’re all still excited to work together. It doesn’t feel old, it still feels fresh.

“I think last year, I was boyish because they were boyish. They knew we had big upgrades coming and I was like, right, we’re coming up to hit hard. But obviously it was a shock to all of us.

“So I think this year everyone’s a lot more grounded, more of the approach of we perhaps won’t be the first out of the gate, but we have the potential to close. Hopefully be closer and hopefully have the potential to close the gap early on in the season.”

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Q: How did you stay fit during the off-season? Have you done any karting or other driving?

Hamilton: “No, I generally stay away from the driving side of things. I do a lot of other sports, so I play squash, I surf quite a lot. A lot of swimming. And I continue to run because that’s just part of the lifestyle that I choose. It’s just having that healthy lifestyle, running. And I was training, even on Christmas Day I was running up the mountain. So that’s just something that I have adapted to over time rather than taking off too big a break.

“I think it’s worked quite well. So I got in the car, I did 160-something laps in Jerez, and I felt good. As always, after the first day of running the back of your neck is always a sore part, and then you just get used to it.

“So I’m sure still after the first days that we’re running, your body is still getting accustomed to the forces, as the car should hopefully be quicker this year. But never just taking your eye off the ball, still trying to also enjoy your time, to be present with the group that you’re with.”

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Q: Do you need to see Mercedes prove to you that they can take you back to to the top before you commit long term or is it a foregone conclusion that you’ll sign this deal?

Poor start to 2022 “was a shock to us all” Hamilton: “For the team, no, I don’t feel like I need them to prove to me. I think we’ve proved time and time again over the years that we have strength in depth. We still have all these incredibly talented individuals within the team. You don’t lose that ability. We’re continuing to try to improve our processes, and we’re continuing to try to be smarter in how we approach things, and with our communication.

“I think there’s the best harmony within the team that I’ve seen in all these years. And as I said, we’ve got a real fresh young group of engineers and people that have just come into the team over the past year as well. So it’s an exciting time for the team, and I don’t plan on being anywhere else.”

Q: Is there a particular element of the car that you have wanted engineers or the team to focus on in particular to push forward in 2023?

Hamilton: “There is, but I can’t really tell you. But it’s pretty much everything. It’s every element from the tip of the back to the tip of the front. But it’s mostly characteristics of how the car behaves.

“Last year’s car didn’t behave like a racing car should and that took away the confidence for the drivers. And so we’ve gone through, over and over again throughout the year, on the things that we wanted changing and we believe those have been addressed.

“But once we get in the car, we’ll know exactly just how much they’ve been addressed and whether there’s still more to do.”

Q: What do you make of the decision to go back to a black livery?

Black livery is preferred by “everyone in the garage” Hamilton: “Everyone in the team, well pretty much everyone in the team, or in the garage at least, preferred the black car from before. So everyone’s with it, everyone likes it within the team.

“Ultimately weight is a key goal for us, we were overweight all year last year and so we were carrying a weight penalty even into the last race. So that’s been a heavy focus to try to make sure that’s not the case this year.

“We’ll find out later on whether or not we’ve hit that mark, because even last year they thought they were going to be on weight and we were way over. So I’m glad that that’s been taken serious, and that’s what we see in the paint. We see a lot of carbon, not too much paint on the car. It’s the bare minimum.

“For me, it’s positive because that means that it’s all-out for performance, and it’s not necessarily how it looks, it’s about how quick it goes.”

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Q: The W13 didn’t have many strengths but is there anything you would like to keep from the characteristics from the old car?

George Russell, Mercedes, Silverstone, 2023 Report: Mercedes keep “DNA” of troubled 2022 car but plan early change to unique sidepods Hamilton: “The only thing that we would want to keep would be that our long run pace was very strong last year. I think our race pace was always stronger. So I would say that’s probably the only element that we really want to carry on into this season, and also reliability.

“So those two are the things I think that we definitely want to hold on to. But all the other stuff we want to reinvent, redesign and hopefully see a more efficient car.”

Q: Visually, it’s still a unique-looking car. You see a lot of other teams converging. How much does that excite you?

Hamilton: “I don’t believe we’ve ever been a team that copied the other people. We’ve always been of our own mind and always been a team that’s incredibly creative and innovative and like to do it our way. And I think this worked in the past.

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“Of course you see some of the cars, a lot of them are converging to what a Red Bull, perhaps, will look like. Except for Ferrari, maybe. And I think there’s definitely an element [that] last year we arrived and were like ‘damn, that looks quick’ and it wasn’t with all the issues that we had.

Hamilton hopes W14 retains its predecessor’s few positive traits “Then coming into another season with a car that’s kind of similar-looking in many respects because some of the elements are really hard to change, but you just have to have the confidence in the engineers, and I do. So we’re sticking with it, we’re going with it and I hope when we get in it has the characteristics that we’ve asked for.

“But if not, then we will find a way. I think the job of the engineers and the designers is to find out, come up with solutions. So we’re prepared for ‘what if…’.

“The difficult thing is you can’t have a magic ball, crystal ball, so you never know what is up ahead, all you can do is prepare yourself and be present and just work diligently towards solving whatever issue it is.”

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