Mercedes superstar Lewis Hamilton is hoping to keep the ‘energy high’ as he still harbours hope of winning a record eighth Formula 1 World Championship in 2022. His comments contrast the downbeat and rather defeatist comments given by Silver Arrows team principal Toto Wolff.
After just three races in the 2022 season, Hamilton sits fifth in the Drivers’ Standings – 43 points behind championship leader Charles Leclerc. The Ferrari star won the season-opening race in Bahrain before winning last time out in Melbourne, and he currently enjoys a 34-point lead over Hamilton’s team-mate George Russell in second.
Mercedes have struggled immensely with porpoising, and it appears that the issue will not be solved anytime soon. Regardless of the bleak outlook, Hamilton believes he can drag himself back into the mix with 20 races remaining.
“I prefer to stay optimistic,” the seven-time champion told MotorLAT. “There is 20 races to go.
“If you think realistically, with the way how the sport goes in terms of everyone’s development, the top teams often develop at a similar pace and similar rate. Will that be the case with this new car? Who knows.
“I’m really, really hoping we can get in the fight soon. But with every bit of improvement we will probably make, [Ferrari] and Red Bull will probably make a similar sort of step, so it’s not going be easy.
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“And yes the gap is pretty big right now but there is a long way to go.”
Hamilton suggested he will be jumping on plenty of Zoom calls to keep Mercedes employees motivated after the octuple world champions have endured a difficult start to the season. The Brit added: “There’s a lot of work and there’ll be a lot of calls, naturally.
“I’m on a lot of Zoom calls with all the sponsors and our bosses, really trying to rally them up. We’ve got some improvements that we need to make. And we need everyone’s support in doing so, just making sure we leave no stone unturned.
“It’s making sure the hunger is really there and we’re maximising absolutely every moment. I’m chasing the people that are in the wind tunnel, the aero guys, and just looking at absolutely every single area. There’s performance to be gained in some areas that we know.
“And we need it now. Not in two or three races as we all know as a team. We have just got to keep that encouragement and keep that energy high.”
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His comments and optimistic outlook is certainly contrasted by the downbeat attitude of Mercedes chief Wolff. Even after the first race when Hamilton claimed P3 and Russell secured P4 following the double retirement by Red Bull, Wolff revealed it’s a ‘very long shot’ for Mercedes to compete for either championship. More recently he gave Hamilton and Russell a ’40 per cent’ chance of winning the tile.
And the 50-year-old has now even praised Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and backed him to win more titles, despite the way the Dutchman claimed his maiden championship in 2020 at Hamilton’s expense. In fact, Wolff believes Verstappen will win the title ahead of Leclerc in 2022.
“[Last season’s success] was not Max’s last title,” the Mercedes chief told Dutch newpaper De Telegraaf. “He is a brilliant driver. It’s completely normal that the battle was so intense last year. It’s part of racing.”
He added: “If the situation had been reversed, we would have claimed the trophy and been happy about it. Max performed strongly all last year and he missed out on a lot of points. He deserved to be world champion.”
The 22-race F1 2022 campaign – which is expected to return to a record 23 races in the near future once a Russian Grand Prix replacement is found – continues with the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix on April 24.