Hamilton 'super-focused' on earning F1 title rematch with Verstappen
Philip Duncan, PA F1 Correspondent, Barcelona
Lewis Hamilton has vowed to continue in Formula One for as long as he can in order to challenge Max Verstappen for the world championship again.
Hamilton finished runner-up to Verstappen at Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix as the Red Bull star delivered another knockout display to claim his fifth win from seven rounds. George Russell completed the podium positions on a strong afternoon for Mercedes.
The seven-time world champion’s contract expires at the end of the year, but the 38-year-old revealed on Sunday night that he is meeting Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff on Monday to thrash out a new deal.
The British driver is in the leanest spell of his life. Twenty-nine races have passed since he lost to Verstappen at the controversial 2021 season finale in Abu Dhabi, and the record-breaking driver has not won a race since.
But following his team’s revitalised performance at the Circuit de Catalunya, Hamilton allowed his mind to wander to the prospect of a title rematch with Verstappen that both he, and the sport, so desperately craves.
“I want to keep going for as long as I can,” said Hamilton, sitting alongside Verstappen.
“But I want to be where he (Verstappen) is, or racing him at least, and I am super-focused on getting to that point. There is a long way to go, but there is time.”
Hamilton will be 39 in January but he remains fuelled by a desire to be crowned champion of the world for a record eighth time.
“My hunger has never shifted,” he added. “I am in a great place in my life, and I am really happy where I am in my life. I have got all the ducks in a row so I can focus.
“I have not signed anything yet, but I am meeting with Toto (on Monday) so hopefully we can get something done.
“We have had so many meetings. And this is another meeting. But the contract is always at the back of your mind, so once it is done then I can focus more on the future.”
Verstappen might have finished 24 seconds up the road, but the feeling in the Mercedes camp is that they might have turned the corner following a turbulent period for the grid’s once-dominant team.
In the days leading up to Sunday’s race, Hamilton said their revamped machine – which made its debut in Monaco a week ago – had not provided him with the step forward he wanted.
But this was Mercedes’ strongest display of the year. Hamilton breezed past Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll and Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz to take second, while team-mate Russell waltzed his way through the field from his lowly starting slot of 12th.
“It is definitely the best the car has been for the past year and a half,” Hamilton added. “That is kudos to the amazing group of people back at the factory.
“It is super-encouraging, not only for me, but for everyone in the team. This is a big boost for everybody’s morale and we are going to take that energy on to developing the car.
“I know we have something in the pipeline moving forward and I am hoping by the end of the year we can challenge.
“Red Bull are so far ahead and Max will continue to win this year. That means they can start on their development for next year, if they have not already, and that is the danger.”
Red Bull have won all seven rounds this year, and 17 of the last 18 races contested, and their stranglehold on the sport shows few signs of easing.
A day on from crushing his opposition to take pole, Verstappen held off the advances off Sainz on the long run to the opening corner and from there, his 40th career victory – which takes him just one shy of Ayrton Senna’s career tally – never looked in doubt.
After Sergio Perez fought back from 11th to fourth, Verstappen’s title lead over his Red Bull team-mate now stands at 53 points, with a week off before the next round in Canada on June 18th.