Lewis Hamilton says his decision to sign a new contract with Mercedes was motivated by the fact he and the team have “unfinished business” in Formula 1.
His remark cast minds back to the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, when Hamilton was six laps from winning an eighth world title until Formula 1’s then race director failed to apply the rules correctly and Max Verstappen prised the championship from the Briton’s grasp.
Hamilton has been stuck on seven championships since then, and been forced to watch as Verstappen and his Red Bull team have swept all before them, having grasped the potential of a new set of technical rules far better than anyone else.
On Thursday at Monza, just after the new two-year deal was announced, Hamilton said “trying to win more world championships” was the reason for staying in F1.
It’s no secret in F1 that Hamilton and Mercedes both feel that they were robbed of their dues at Yas Marina that day.
Nor that it has made the past two seasons, when they have fallen dramatically from competitiveness after failing to fully grasp how to get the best from the new set of rules, especially difficult to deal with.
Hamilton, 38, will never forget what happened in Abu Dhabi, and he explained last year how tough it had been.
But he says that his new deal is about looking forwards, not back.
“I’m not really a revenge person,” Hamilton said. “It’s not about redemption. That’s in the past. There’s nothing we can do about the past.
“But what we can do is work better moving forwards, and I truly believe with this team we can win more world championships and races together. So that’s where all my energy’s going.”
That eighth title would mean Hamilton stands alone at the top of all F1’s major record lists, even if Verstappen is showing with his remarkable run of success that he could yet join him.
Hamilton already has more wins and pole positions than anyone else, but in terms of championships, the decisions by Michael Masi back in November 2021 to ignore the rules on how to restart a race after a safety car period and invent his own almost certainly prevented him from moving clear of the tie in which he finds himself with Michael Schumacher.
That evening under the lights in Abu Dhabi, there was not yet a sense that Mercedes would fall from the pedestal with quite such a thud.
They had dominated from 2014 to 2020, and it took a subtle tweak of the aerodynamic rules before the 2021 season to bring Red Bull on to a level playing field with them.
No one – least of all Hamilton and the team themselves – had any reason to think that the wholesale rewriting of the technical rules for 2022, and the reintroduction of ground effect, would leave them so far off the pace.
Instead, Hamilton and Mercedes have found themselves battling for respectability since the start of 2022. (BBC)