Hamilton’s contract talks, Vettel’s farewell and other Mexican stories
Lewis Hamilton has just three races left to avoid the first winless season of his illustrious Formula 1 career; a mark that could make other drivers wonder if it’s time to get out of the car. Not the seven-time champion.
He struggled all year in a new and underperforming Mercedes and there was speculation he would retire following his controversial loss of a record eighth F1 title last December to Max Verstappen. Even so, the 37-year-old wants more.
Hamilton said ahead of the Mexico Grand Prix he had entered talks with Mercedes over a new multi-year deal. His current contract expires at the end of 2023.
“Every year you have to ask yourself if you are ready to give as much if not more than when you started. Are you ready to give all your time to prepare, train and work with the team and deliver? said Hamilton. “If there’s a time when I come in and I’m just rolling around, then that’s when I don’t belong here and I don’t deserve the position here, and that This is when I should quit. I wonder if I can do this and if I want to do it, and the answer is yes.
“Obviously we have a championship that we have to recover, and I like the mission and this challenge with my team,” he added.
Hamilton, who holds the record for F1 wins with 103 since his debut season in 2007, topped last season’s final in Abu Dhabi in a head-to-head with Verstappen for the title.
A late warning (Safety Car) sparked a series of events in which the since-fired race director broke protocol in his decisions – ultimately allowing Verstappen to pass Hamilton for the race win and the title.
Hamilton raised questions after Abu Dhabi 2021
Hamilton retreated from the public eye for nearly two months amid rampant speculation he would quit the sport. And with all of his outside interests — fashion, music, movies, social justice issues and a recent investment in a group of NFL team owners — there’s enough to keep Hamilton busy.
He said he didn’t know what the next five years would look like for him, only that he wanted most of his focus to remain on racing at the highest level over the next few seasons.
“That’s what I’m focusing on. I’m not in a relationship, I don’t have kids. That’s my baby right now,” Hamilton said.
Hamilton had a one-win season in 2013 but has never struggled as much as this year. Mercedes’ debut with its new car revealed multiple issues that Hamilton claims to have enjoyed trying to resolve. But he has just seven podiums this year, including a second-place finish against Verstappen last weekend in Austin, Texas, and conceded it was probably his last chance to win this season.
However, he is not ready to give up on Mercedes.
“I can’t wait for us to get back to success, when we finally get that win, when we get that championship – that’s going to make all those tough times interesting,” Hamilton said.
Sebastian Vettel’s slow goodbye
Four-time F1 champion Sebastian Vettel said in July that his 16th season would be his last. As he approaches the home stretch of his F1 career, the German does not regret his impending retirement.
Not even after a battle last weekend with Kevin Magnussen it showed the 35-year-old Aston Martin driver still has the skills to be on the F1 grid.
“I thought about this decision for a long time and from many angles. I find it a bit sad that we tend to swing so much now,” Vettel said. “I see the benefits of having strong emotions rather than just being flat, but I think the judgment in general is a bit too quick. We create hype.
“I obviously enjoyed the last two races, the last two races more than maybe I did in the middle of the season, but they don’t have any impact on the decision. And on the contrary, it’s a great reminder of why I love this sport so much, why I love running so much,” he insisted.
Vettel wears a Red Bull design on his helmet this week in tribute to Dietrich Mateschitz, the company’s co-founder who died last weekend. Vettel spent two years competing for Toro Rosso, Red Bull’s junior team, early in his F1 career before being promoted to the top team at the start of 2009. He won four consecutive championships with Red Bull.
“I think it was six of us (last) Sunday on the grid who obviously shared a story with Red Bull or still share a story with Red Bull, as a brand, as a team, with the junior team and there’s probably more Formula One driver,” Vettel said. “I think the impact that Red Bull has had on the grid over the past 15 years has been exceptional and probably unprecedented. Dietrich, for me, we had a very good relationship and what I really appreciate today is that it was always at eye level, even though he was much more experienced and competent than me, especially at beginning.
What’s next for Nicholas Latifi
Nicholas Latifi will be out of Formula 1 at the end of the season when Williams plans to replace him with American driver Logan Sargeant.
Despite rumors that Latifi will become the next F1 driver to move into IndyCar – possibly alongside former F1 driver and Indianapolis 500 winner Marcus Ericsson at Chip Ganassi Racing – the Canadian said he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do next year.
“These are just rumours. I haven’t decided on my future yet,” Latifi said. “I’ve explored the options and IndyCar is a series that I’m considering, of course, but I haven’t decided anything yet.”
In fact, Latifi is willing to take a year off if he needs to to land the right job. He said: “I think if the right opportunity in the right series, which again at this point I can’t say which is the right series because I haven’t made up my mind yet, then it’s is definitely still on the table.
“But at the same time, if there’s not an option on the table that I think is the right one for next year, I’m not necessarily ruling out taking a year and then putting in something better for the next one.”
Friday training in Mexico
Carlos Sainz Jr. led Ferrari in a one-two finish in Friday’s first practice at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, but the day was lost in practice two when teammate Charles Leclerc crashed.
Leclerc leads Mexican favorite Sergio Perez of Red Bull by two points in the fight for second place in the standings.
The first practice session included several reserve drivers for the second consecutive week. Liam Lawson was in a car for AlphaTauri, Sargeant again drove for Williams and Nick De Vries was behind the wheel for Mercedes. Alpine used Jack Doohan and Pietro Fittipaldi drove for Haas.
Doohan pulled out early after “faults” were found in his engine, while Fittipaldi pulled out a red flag earlier after coming to a stop on the track.