Lewis Hamilton is fully fired up for the 2022 Formula 1 season, revealing he is no longer thinking about the pain of the controversial 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, holding no grudges in his quest for a record eighth world title.
In the aftermath of an epic (very well covered) 2021 season, that ended badly – denying Max Verstappen a fitting manner to win the crown he deserved, while handing Hamilton defeat in a way he did not deserve.
Looking back on his gruelling season-long battle with Verstappen and the bitterly disappointing finale, Hamilton said: “Three laps to the end we got a message that the cars were not allowed to unlap, and four minutes later suddenly there are two messages that came out of nowhere.
“The championship was gone within half a minute of a decision-making process and that is unprecedented. We have to move on and put it aside.
“We are not going to forget it – because that is simply not possible – but we need to look to 2022 and today launching the car is the moment, along with the steps that have been taken by the FIA, to embark on the season with encouragement.”
Hamilton: This has nothing to do with Max who did everything a driver would do
Hamilton explained why he went off the radar during the off-season, spending most of his time in America: “It was obviously a difficult time for me. I just unplugged and switched off. It took time to digest what happened and it is still difficult to fully understand everything.
“But eventually I got to a point where I decided I was going to be attacking again coming into another season. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and if you think what you saw at the end of last year was my best, wait until you see this year.”
Which is a sure signal of intent to his rival Verstappen, whom Hamilton does not blame for any of the misfortune that befell him that night at Yas Marina: “This has nothing to do with Max. Max did everything a driver would do given the opportunity he was given.
“I don’t hold grudges. It is not a good thing to carry around with you. I move forward, I don’t dwell on the past. I feel fresh, centred and, I don’t have anything holding me back.”
After the downtime with friends and family, Hamilton finally resurfaced on social media earlier this month, declaring “I am back” posted with a photo of him grinning broadly at the edge of a canyon.
A lot of people underestimate what it takes to be a world champion
Today, at the launch of the Mercedes W13 it is evident that the 37-year-old is as motivated as ever, but admitted he did reassess his future: “At the end of every season, the question I ask myself is whether I am willing to commit the time and effort that it takes to be a world champion.
“A lot of people underestimate what it takes to be a world champion. Do I want to sacrifice time? Can I punch at the weight I have been punching?
“That is a normal mental process for me, but this year was compounded by a significant factor about a sport I have loved my whole life. There was a moment where I lost a little bit of faith. I put faith and trust alongside each other and trust can be lost in a blink of an eye or a flick of a finger.
“But I am a determined person and I like to think to myself that while moments like this might define other people’s careers, I will refuse to let it define mine.
Although we cannot change the past – and nothing will ever change how it felt at the time – it is good to see the FIA is taking steps to improve, and accountability is key. We have to use this moment to make sure this never happens to anybody else in this sport ever again,” he added.
Hamilton and new team-mate George Russell will be in action at next week’s first test in Barcelona ahead of the new season which starts in Bahrain on March 20.
Today they gave the Mercedes W13 its first shakedown at Silverstone.
We’ve missed that sound. 🎶🤩 pic.twitter.com/EvlxgFKjCp
— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) February 18, 2022