Formula One: Hamilton Confident Over Mercedes Future

“What drives me forward is that this year has definitely been inspiring, showing that I’ve still this ability, this drive to continue,” Hamilton said in an interview.

It is why he is adamant that he will be fired up for the first day of preseason testing in February. “As the season is winding down, I’m already starting to think about my winter preparation, analyzing what I did this year, what I can do better for next season,” he added.

“Coming out of the last race and going to the factory, you are focused on understanding the tools you are going to be given for next year, and then you go away for your break and you get back in the groove of being in the best shape you can be.”

In a sport constantly changing, evolving, and therefore challenging, Hamilton knows he cannot rest if he is to remain at the vanguard of Formula One.

“There are always areas to improve,” he said. “It will be about the usage of time, the understanding of data.

“Qualifying has been strong, but there are areas for improvement in practice and the understanding of the car. My technical knowledge has continued to grow, as have my relationships with people in the team, but I have to continue to build on those.

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Hamilton’s dominance in Formula One, four titles and 62 career victories, has put him within striking distance of Michael Schumacher’s records of seven titles and 91 victories. Credit Clive Mason/Getty Images

“You don’t just build them and then let it be what they are. You’ve got to continue to grow them. So there are lots of areas and lots of work. It never stops until you decide to retire.”

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There is little chance of his retiring like his previous teammate, Nico Rosberg, did after winning the drivers’ championship in 2016. “I never want to see anyone else driving my car,” Hamilton said. “I’ve worked so hard to help it be what it is, the beauty that it is.”

He also gets along with his new teammate, Valtteri Bottas, unlike the difficult relationship he had with Rosberg. The acrimony between them resulted in an unhealthy tension throughout the team and in the garage during a grand prix weekend.

When Rosberg left, Hamilton and Toto Wolff, the team principal, met in the kitchen of Wolff’s Oxford home to discuss their differences of opinion that had arisen during the season.

The meeting resulted in a much better relationship between Hamilton and Wolff this season.

“It was a very, very important meeting, which I think helped determine the future,” Hamilton said.

“There were things through the year that had big question marks over them, so it was to clear the air, to say what was exactly on our minds.” Hamilton said, for example, that he told Wolff that he felt the team favored Rosberg last year.

“We didn’t argue, or anything like that, but it was an opportunity to argue, to shout at each other, to shed a tear if needed, whatever, to squash any negativity, and that’s what we did,” Hamilton said.

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“I left feeling relieved, a weight off my shoulder, and I think it was the same for Toto, and so I went into the winter with the belief and focus of having the team right behind me, and driven to utilize and build upon the foundation we had rebuilt in that meeting.”

Wolff agreed it was a pivotal exchange. “Our conversation was very important to our relationship, because being able to talk about all the frustrations that had built up over a while brought a release in the tensions,” he said.

“I very much believe the dynamic is very important within a team. We have spent considerable time working on the intrateam relationships. That discussion in the kitchen helped.”

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Highlighting the difference it has made, Wolff added, “Lewis and I have not had one single difference of opinion this past year, and that is remarkable in a sport that is so intense.”

Hamilton is clearly more at ease this season, with a more mature and well-rounded character.

“As a personality, Lewis has developed and performs on a better level these days,” Wolff said. “His personal development is impressive.

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Hamilton, left, has developed a good relationship with his new Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas. Credit Behrouz Mehri/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“We must not forget these racing drivers are thrown into the public eye when they are very young. He is 32 years old, and people have forgotten that he needs to make his own experiences, make his own way.

“This year I have found him very grounded, very confident, and that has certainly helped his racing.”

Hamilton’s contentment with life, and his position within the team, was underlined at the last race in Brazil.

After crashing out in the early stages of qualifying, Hamilton cheered on Bottas, who claimed pole position ahead of Vettel. Apart from when he was a boy watching Formula One, Hamilton could not recall doing anything like that since he began driving in the series.

Wolff feels Hamilton’s passion makes Schumacher’s records attainable. Hamilton surpassed the first of those, for most pole positions, which stood at 68, this season. Hamilton now has 72.

“Michael’s records are impressive, that have made him the best-ever racing driver,” Wolff said.

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“Lewis has many years of Formula One in front of him, and looking at his statistics, those records are within reach.

“As long as the team provides him with the right car, and he continues to develop in every area, then we must together leave no stone unturned and continue to develop as a group.”

Wolff then highlighted a crucial weapon in Hamilton’s armory as to why he is a four-time champion, and why he could add more.

“What I see within him is that losing is extremely painful, so whether it’s the fear of losing, or it’s the simple feeling of losing out, I don’t know, but for him, it’s a very difficult emotion to cope with,” Wolff said.

With experience on his side, Hamilton has a different perspective, but just as compelling as to what continues to fuel his desire.

“Challenges are there to make life interesting,” Hamilton said. “The journey of overcoming them, and hopefully succeeding, is what then makes life meaningful and worthwhile.”

A version of this article appears in print on November 25, 2017, in The International New York Times. Order Reprints| Today's Paper|Subscribe


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Source : https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/24/sports/autoracing/f1-lewis-hamilton-mercedes-racing.html

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