Lewis Hamilton on difficult season for Mercedes in November
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Mercedes boss Toto Wolff is confident Max Verstappen will not stop Lewis Hamilton’s pursuit of a record-breaking eighth F1 world title – should the Brit’s new W14 car prove competitive in a title challenge. Helpless Hamilton saw 2021 rival Verstappen cruise to his second world crown last season as the dominant Dutchman posted 15 race wins in the unstoppable Red Bull.
Hamilton endured his first ever full winless season in F1 as Mercedes fell back on the grid, unable to adjust to the sport’s all-new technical regulations. There is optimism, however, that Mercedes’ setback last year was merely an aberration and Hamilton could be about to reignite his epic title rivalry with Verstappen.
And the Silver Arrows unveiled their highly-anticipated new all-black W14 design at Silverstone on Wednesday, with Wolff hoping the modified vehicle can put his team back in silverware contention. The Austrian team boss is confident Hamilton can claim an eighth world title if the new machine delivers throughout 2023.
“I don’t think this is about closure for him or not, I think an eighth title would be wonderful because he deserves to have that eighth title,” Wolff told Sky Sports. “There’s only him and Michael [Schumacher] who have seven but it’s more about doing what he loves and what he does best. And if we can provide him with a good car, there’s nothing in between him and an eighth title.”
Hamilton, who finished sixth in his worst ever F1 season in 2022, remains in talks to extend his stay at Mercedes as he enters his 11th campaign with the Brackley-based team. And Wolff does not envisage any contract problems as negotiations continue ahead of lights out on the new season in Bahrain next month.
“Talks have always been going okay, we’ve done it three times now,” he added. “We’re just changing a sentence, a word or a number here and there so all is going to be good.”
Now 38, veteran Hamilton is the second oldest driver on the grid after old foe Fernando Alonso, 41, who is entering his 20th season in F1 at Aston Martin. But Wolff has no concerns whatsoever about backing an ageing driver with another long-term deal, name-checking NFL icon Tom Brady as he pointed to longevity in other leading athletes.
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“Lewis’ age at 38 plays no role for this next contract,” Wolff insisted. “If you look at how well top athletes in the world have pushed the boundaries, I’m thinking about Tom Brady who is 45 and he’s on the pitch throwing the ball and being tackled, so the age plays no role.
“In terms of the contractual situation, I think we’ve always found good solutions that reflect the value for the team and for the sport and on the other side, I think Mercedes is the place he wants to be. So these things have never been contentious points and nothing is dragging on. The alignment is great.”
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