Lewis Hamilton said Tuesday that winning a record-breaking eighth world championship in 2021 would not be the determining factor in whether he quits after the season.
The attempt to land a drivers’ crown that would move the 36-year-old Briton above Michael Schumacher to become the most decorated driver in the sport’s history will go hand-in-hand with the issue of his future in Formula One.
“I’ve made a really important decision in my mind, that I don’t want that to be the deciding factor,” Hamilton said in a conference call at the launch of the Mercedes car for 2021.
“I got into racing because I loved racing and I think that’s got to always be at the core of what I do. If all you’re going for is accolades, if all you’re going for is titles, I feel like you could potentially lose your way.
“Of course it’s the ultimate dream, but I don’t think that’s necessarily going to be the deciding factor whether to stay or keep going.”
Hamilton denied that a one-year extension to his contract had increased the possibility that the upcoming season could be his final one in the sport.
“I am in the fortunate position where I have achieved most of the stuff that I wanted to, so there is no real need to plan too far into the future.
“We are living in an unusual period of time. I just wanted one year, then we can talk about if we do more and keep adding to it by one if we have to.”
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff insisted that despite seven successive constructors’ titles the team had the “same fire, hunger and passion” as when he arrived in 2013.
Get all the latest sport news, highlights and analysis delivered straight to your inbox with Fox Sports Sportmail. Sign up now!!!
The Mercedes-AMG F1 W12 E Performance builds on the solid base of its predecessor but includes considerable aerodynamic changes alongside improvements to areas as such as the suspension, cooling system and power unit.
It will be seen on the track for the first time in pre-season testing in Bahrain on March 12. The season-opening Grand Prix takes place on March 28.
“Every year we reset our focus and define the right objectives,” said Wolff in a statement to mark the launch of the new car.
“That may sound simple but it’s damn hard and is probably why there are no sports teams out there with seven consecutive titles.
“So many things can happen and it’s very natural to get used to success, and therefore not fight as hard for it. But this team has not shown any of that.”
Wolff said Hamilton and Finnish teammate Valtteri Bottas, who underlined Mercedes’ dominance by finishing second in the 2020 drivers’ standings, always have new challenges which keep them motivated.
“I see the same fire, hunger and passion now as I did the first time I walked through the doors in 2013,” he said.
One of Hamilton’s crusades has been to promote and develop more diversity in Formula One.
As a result the car’s black base livery remains for a second season “to underline the team’s commitment to improving diversity and inclusion within the team and our sport”.
Wolff said the team had set itself targets to back up its words with actions.
“We’ve set ourselves the goal of at least 25 percent of all new starters coming from under-represented groups for the next five years,” he said.
“The latest step is a joint foundation that we will create together with Lewis to improve all aspects of diversity in motorsport.
“All of these measures are encouraging, but we know that real change takes time and we’re at the start of a very long journey.”
In a new twist, Formula 1 expert Martin Brundle has revealed Red Bull believes it has the data to prove Lewis Hamilton entered Copse corner on the first lap faster than any other during the Grand Prix.
Red Bull’s Verstappen had to retire from the race while Hamilton went on to win, slashing the Dutchman’s lead in the championship from 33 points to just eight.
Stream Every Practice, Qualifier & Race of the 2021 FIA Formula One World Championship™ Live & On-Demand on Kayo. New to Kayo? Try 14-Days Free Now >
“Red Bull felt it was a professional foul, an intentional accident from Hamilton,” Brundle wrote in his post-race Sky Sports F1 column.
“They were incandescent, their potential world champion was bruised, their car expensively wrecked in this new cost cap era, and with possible grid penalties to come from any engine and ancillary damage.
“They would score zero points from the race and both championship leads would be seriously eroded. I am told by Red Bull there is data to prove Lewis was significantly faster into Copse than at any other time and he would not have made the corner without running wide, and inevitably contacting Max.
“Presumably, that will be made publicly available and if Red Bull feel they have ‘new evidence’ they may well make an appeal to the FIA as to their perceived degree of fault and leniency regarding Hamilton.”
Mercedes, meanwhile, insisted Lewis Hamilton’s controversial first-lap move on world championship rival Max Verstappen at the British Grand Prix was “absolutely in line with the overtaking guide”.
“As far as we are concerned, the manoeuvre that took place, the manoeuvre that Lewis did, was absolutely in line with the FIA’s overtaking guide,” said Mercedes technical chief James Allison.
Hamilton was penalised 10 seconds for the incident.
“Lewis definitely was substantially alongside. He had his front axle well beyond the midpoint of Verstappen’s car,” added Allison.
“It requires you are substantially alongside and it requires that you must be able to make the corner. By make the corner it means go round the corner and not leave the track or lose control of the car. Those are the things you need to satisfy.
“If you can go round the corner, if you are substantially alongside the other car then the corner is yours.” He added: “I did feel that it was harsh to get the penalty.
“This is about what are the rules to do with overtaking and I didn’t see that Lewis did anything wrong with respect to those rules.”
Lewis Hamilton was the victim of “multiple instances of racist abuse on social media” during and after his controversial win in the British Grand Prix, according to a joint statement by Formula One, the FIA and his Mercedes team.
The seven-time world champion was involved early on in an incident that saw championship leader Max Verstappen plough his Red Bull into a wall and out of the race.
Hamilton was hit by a 10 second penalty but went on to win the race and close the gap in the title race to just eight points.
“During, and after, yesterday’s British Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton was subjected to multiple instances of racist abuse on social media following an in-race collision,” they said in a joint statement condemning the behaviour “in the strongest possible terms”.
“These people have no place in our sport and we urge that those responsible should be held accountable for their actions.
“Formula 1, the FIA, the drivers and the teams are working to build a more diverse and inclusive sport, and such unacceptable instances of online abuse must be highlighted and eliminated.”
Daniel Ricciardo also hit out at the racism Hamilton has received in light of the incident, saying: “I’ve seen some of the remarks aimed at Lewis after yesterday. No matter what happens on track there is absolutely zero place for racism and hate. We have to be better than this.”
Verstappen, who was taken to hospital for checks after the race, later accused Hamilton of “disrespectful and unsportsmanlike behaviour”.
A public supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement, Hamilton gave his support a week ago to the England footballers Bukayo Saka, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho who were also abused after they missed penalties in the Euro 2020 final.
“I hope this opens a conversation around acceptance,” he wrote on Instagram at the time.
“We must work towards a society that doesn’t require Black players to prove their value or place in society only through victory.”
It was always inevitable that there would be a major flashpoint between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen this season, they have both been racing hard and fair and both have acknowledged the respect they have for the other for doing so.
But Horner’s tune has changed since a similar incident at the Spanish Grand Prix, when Hamilton moved where Verstappen held firm, and the Brit was able to carry on racing.
“Turn 1 was mega,” Horner said at the time. “I mean Max, that was full Max Verstappen – he was just going for it – and he positioned the car fantastically well.
“He tucked in, he got a little bit of a tow and a bit of momentum. And yeah he just braked later and ran the car wide. Thankfully Lewis had got out of it because otherwise he would have ended up in the fence.”
The last sentence of that is crucial. Verstappen’s driving is just as aggressive as Hamilton’s, maybe even more so – and Horner celebrated it, but Hamilton’s is more pragmatic. That’s why Hamilton ended up with 25 points and Verstappen went careering into the barriers.
There will be plenty more flashpoints ahead with just an eight-point difference at the top of the drivers championship now, but this could act as a key learning curve for Verstappen, one where he realises that you can lose the battle but still win the war.
Lando Norris has been brilliant, but Ricciardo’s failing have made him look even better as the Aussie’s inexperience in the car was clear for all to see.
But the British Grand Prix was a stable performance from Ricciardo, he qualified in seventh for the sprint race, where he finished sixth to qualify for Sunday’s ‘real’ race.
He went one better there, finishing fifth, but more impressively managed to hold off Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari, which was always less than one second behind him in his rear-view mirror.
“Happy with my first top five of the year,” Ricciardo said. “Took a while, better late than never. Yeah, happy with that.
“When I saw Carlos coming in that second stint he caught me so fast.
“I was obviously ready for the fight and the defence but the pace he caught me I thought maybe — if I was a betting man or if I was watching from the outside, I guess he was the betting favourite (to overtake).
“But I certainly backed myself and I wasn’t going to go out without a fight.
“I think actually pushing to defend allowed me to stay on the limit a bit more and get a bit more comfortable with the car on the edge.
“I learned a bit more from that actually so we’ll keep going.
“I definitely need to have a few (good results) in a row. I need to have that consistency now to kind of have a bit more faith in saying that.
“I want to say that and I do feel better but there’s still certainly some time on the table that I need to find and get comfortable with the car.
“But overall, a good weekend. Yeah, let’s go.”
He has the Hungarian Grand Prix next up in a fortnight’s time before the mid-season break comes into effect, giving Ricciardo and McLaren more time to strengthen that bond. Expect to see a Ricciardo more familiar to us all come the season resumption in Spa at the end of August.
Hamilton made a habit of being picked up by television cameras casually making his way to the garage on his push scooter with 20 minutes of a Friday practice session already passed. A lot of teams even use a reserve driver or a junior driver to give them experience in a F1 car, such is the lack of importance they place on a Friday in the grand scheme of the weekend.
Yet at Silverstone, while we were treated to the traditional Q1, Q2 and Q3 format, we had the added bonus of a 17-lap race as a mouth-waterer for the 52-lap main course on the Sunday. All that was lost was a non-competitive hour – previously an hour and a half – of practice sessions.
There were plenty of changes in the top 10 for the race from the sprint race, negating any fears that drivers would take it easy to avoid crashing.
But it doesn’t give us that down-to-the-wire finish that we usually get from qualifying, with pole decided on the opening lap followed by 30 minutes of what was essentially a practice session as teams got data to inform them of real race scenarios that they would experience the following day.
“For me personally qualifying is where you should get pole position, and of course Lewis was ahead there, but you jump out of the car and it actually doesn‘t… well, it does mean something,” Verstappen said.
“There‘s not the real hype of, you know, I nailed the lap and I put it on pole or whatever. So yeah, when I crossed the line today after this race and they were like, ’yeah, great job, pole position’, it feels a bit like, ’yeah, I did a kind of like one third of the race distance’ and then to hear you did pole position for tomorrow it’s a bit odd but yeah, we’ll go through it and I guess everyone has their own opinion about things.”
However, Ricciardo was more upbeat: “Qualifying is fun. It is intense and there is a lot of pressure, but for me Sunday has always been my favourite day. This is like having two Sundays, and having two chances for a race start and this level of intensity and competition two times, is fun.”
But it’s generated debate, intrigue and more eyes on the screen across the three days of racing, meaning that it is likely here to stay.
FERRARI ‘50% HAPPY, 50% FRUSTRATED’
For a while it looked like the stars had aligned and Ferrari would win at Silverstone on the 70th anniversary of its first ever F1 victory in 1951.
That was until Charles Leclerc was passed by Hamilton with just three laps to go leaving him on the second step of the podium.
Having started in P4, Leclerc jumped Valtteri Bottas before the crash between Hamilton and Verstappen left him in the lead of the pack.
He held onto the lead during the race restart despite engine issues and heavy pressure from behind until he finally succumbed with three laps remaining as the Mercedes couldn’t be contained any longer.
“[I’m feeling] 50% frustration, 50% happiness,” Leclerc said afterwards. “Obviously going into this weekend there was absolutely no hope of fighting for a win here at Silverstone. So this shows how great a job we are doing as a team. It’s not an easy situation for the team, but the team is working extremely well.
“We have shown that today with this second place and we’ve got to keep on working because that’s what we want to do consistently – fight for the win.”
It’s a positive sign for Ferrari, who are desperately working to get back into the championship debate after falling off so dramatically last year and for Leclerc himself, as he is able to show off his abilities again, despite competition from a very talented teammate in Sainz.
DOUBLE CHAMP’S QUIET RESURGENCE
There was a lot of excitement about Fernando Alonso’s return to Formula 1 this season, especially in a Renault that Ricciardo was showing could absolutely challenge for podiums regularly if in the right hands.
However, a slow start reduced him to a side show, as Alonso was racing another former multi-time champion – and former teammate – in Sebastian Vettel, but at the wrong end of the field.
However, a seventh-place finish at Silverstone has made it five consecutive points finishes for the Spaniard, compared to just two in the previous five.
And despite it not being Alpine’s best result, Alonso insisted that it still felt like it was, suggesting there is still plenty more to come this season.
“Our best result was Baku, P6, but it was a strange race – so today P7 was probably our strongest weekend on race pace,” reflected the Spaniard. “And happy for that. Difficult race for tyre management with blister concerns, and yes, we managed quite well and we delivered a good result, I think.”
Alonso was also the star performer in the inaugural F1 Sprint as he jumped from P11 to P5 in a stunning opening lap. There’s still some life in the old dog yet.