Lewis Hamilton says he is better prepared than ever for the start of a Formula One season and ready to fight for a fourth title after the unexpected retirement of Mercedes team mate and champion Nico Rosberg.
There would, he indicated, be no hangover from the disappointment of losing out to the German in 2016. Only a hunger to win again.
“I don’t think I’ve ever missed a team mate in my life,” the Briton told reporters at the launch of his team’s wider and lower 2017 car, with Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas filling Rosberg’s shoes.
“I’m going to find it strange, and it already is, being down in the garage and having someone else next to me. But you get used to it immediately,” he added after his first laps in the new car at a windy Silverstone.
Hamilton won more battles than Rosberg in 2016 -- 10 races to nine -- but lost the war after reliability problems. This year the rules have changed with wider tires and revised aerodynamics making the cars quicker and more aggressive.
“I’m definitely mentally ready for the season,” he said, while hoping for the sake of the fans that it would be a closer battle than in previous seasons.
Mercedes have taken both driver’s and constructor’s titles for the past three seasons.
“It’s the same as every year,” he said of his approach. “I want to win. A pretty simple mindset to have.”
That was also Rosberg’s focus last season but when he achieved his career goal, the German promptly retired -- making clear he could no longer sustain the intensity required to beat his teammate.
Hamilton, whose interests in fashion and music have grown over the years, said he could empathize with the desire to go out at the top.
“I don’t know all the reasons that Nico decided to stop but I can really understand the feeling of wanting to stop and do something different,” he said.
“Every now and then I have a thought about what I do afterwards. Then I see that car and I’m, like, I think I’m going to stay... I’m still competitive, I’m still hungry and still driving at my best. I feel like I can put up a good fight.”
After some downbeat comments recently about Formula One being outdated and needing to catch up, Hamilton sounded more positive with the sport entering a new era under the ownership of Liberty Media.
“The cars looks so much better than they have in the past,” he said. “Formula One’s future has the potential to be incredibly bright with the new people coming in.”
Hamilton ‘better prepared than ever’