A refreshed and hungry Lewis Hamilton has declared he’s ready to take the new Formula One season by the scruff of the neck, which is bad news for his long-suffering rivals.
The Mercedes driver is the man they all have to beat again, but at 33 it seems that Hamilton, the four-time world champion and now a veteran of the sport, wants to speed up rather than slow down.
Hamilton, who has Juan Manuel Fangio’s five F1 titles in his sights, gave a glimpse into his mindset when he revealed that, even after a record 72 pole positions, he feels he’s never driven the perfect lap.
“The perfect lap? No, and that is what is so great about this sport: you never get perfect,” he told British broadcaster Sky Sports. “If you played the perfect game time and time again, you would lose motivation because it is easy. You always have to move on to something more difficult. But there is no other class better than Formula One so if I was to perfect it, it would suck.”
Formula One’s only black driver comes from humble roots in Britain’s Stevenage, a town outside London, and appears to thrive on adversity.
Hamilton — who has adopted “Still I Rise”, the title of a Maya Angelou poem, as his personal motto — hit a bump in the road when he was criticised for mocking his nephew for wearing a dress, prompting him to withdraw from social media and delete years of posts.
But after his self-imposed silence, Hamilton resumed posting in January, writing on Instagram: “I will never stop, I have no finish line.”
Worryingly for Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and the Red Bull drivers, Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen, Hamilton also has the benefit of what looks like an improved Mercedes this season as he sets out to retain his world champion status.
Technical chief James Allison says the Mercedes W09 would “blow away” last year’s model, and the car showed no obvious weaknesses when it completed more laps than any other during preseason testing.
Former Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg, the only man to deny Hamilton a sweep of the last four Formula One titles, said the other drivers needed to make themost of the Briton’s moments of inconsistency.
“He has these periods when he is just not on it … you have to make the most of it, absolutely, and Sebastian did that pretty well last year,” he said, according to Sky.
“When Lewis has his good weekends he is almost unbeatable, he is unbelievably fast and maybe the best guy out there. The only way to beat Lewis is to be 100% with everything, do the perfect season. Otherwise there is no chance.”
At last year’s season opener, Hamilton finished second behind Vettel and it wasn’t until after the mid-season break that he hit his stride, turning a 14-point deficit into a title victory by 46 points. This year, the 62-time grand prix-winner seems to have travelled to Melbourne focused on the job at hand: securing world title number five.
The Billion Dollar Man told ESPN: “That hunger that I had when I was eight years old — when the teachers said that I was never going to amount to anything, when the other racing drivers’ dads said I was never going to amount to nothing, when the kids shouted abuse at the race track to me and my family — that still powers me on through the races.” — AFP