Hamilton warned he had been through “so much” to get back on the grid, both “physically and spiritually”. In a social media message to fans, Lewis said he and Mercedes had “put in a lot of hard work and long hours” ahead of the new season that starts this weekend.
The message was posted alongside an image of a determined Hamilton standing on tyres in the Bahrain paddock.
He said: “So much has gone into getting back and being here both physically and spiritually. Me and the team @MercedesAMGF1 put in a lot of hard work and long hours, and we’re going to give it everything we can for you guys. Keep the positivity coming.”
The message comes just months after Lewis’ social media silence sparked rumours he was set to quit F1 after a controversial end to last season. Hamilton was leading the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix until the last lap when a safety car saw Verstappen close in.
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On fresher tyres, the Dutchman took just half a lap to dispose of Hamilton to claim his maiden title. However, in February Hamilton returned to social media posted an image of him on holiday
It was followed with the caption “I’ve been gone. Now I’m back!”. Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff had previously warned Hamilton was “disilusioned” with F1 after the events at the end of last season.
However, he now believes the injustice will help “motivate” the team to success this season.
He said: “Lewis had done everything that was necessary to win the championship and it was taken away from him. There is nothing better that they could have done to motivate us.”
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However, Mercedes could struggle to replicate their old form this season after a troubling pre-season test in Bahrain. The car completed the most miles but struggled to match the pace of rivals Red Bull and Ferrari.
After the session, Hamilton admitted his car was not as competitive as he would like.
He said: “At the moment, I don’t think we will be competing for wins. Obviously next week we will get a much better showing of our pace, but I think [other] people will surprise maybe. People keep talking about us talking ourselves down, but it’s a bit different this year.”