I still love F1 but don’t like driving ‘not-great’ cars – Hamilton

2023 F1 season

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Lewis Hamilton says he doesn’t enjoy driving cars that aren’t “great” but is ready to fight for the championship if the Mercedes W14 comes good.

The seven-times world champion is enduring a second disappointing campaign in as many years after Mercedes started the season far from the pace of Red Bull. The reigning champions have won every race this year, while Hamilton has been out-qualified by team mate George Russell at all three rounds.

Hamilton’s Mercedes contract will expire at the end of the year and the expectation he will be unable to fight for the championship again has prompted speculation he may leave the sport. Speaking to Fox Sports during the Australian Grand Prix weekend Hamilton said he still has a passion for driving but is eager to have a competitive car again.

“I really do love it,” he said. “I don’t like driving not-great cars.”

Mercedes has already said it intends to change the design concept of its W14 after failing to significantly close on the reigning world champions during the off-season.

“I don’t like driving a car that’s not the car that we had meant to have,” Hamilton continued. “But I love that challenge of ‘what can I do with it?’ Okay, wins are not possible right now so what’s the maximum we can get?

“Can we be a little cheeky and if fifth is the best we can get, can we get a fourth or a third? Can we just make sure we’re consistent and make sure that you’re fit and ready so that when the car does all of a sudden switch on and it is the car that you dreamed of having you’re ready?”

Having narrowly missed out on a record-breaking eighth world championship in 2021, Hamilton says he is eager to fight for another. “I’m ready to win a world championship. I’ve prepared the best way I can this year, I think the best thing I’ve ever prepared. And if the car comes correct tomorrow, I’ll be ready to fight for the world championship.

“That’s not the case and the reality at the moment. But I’m working with everyone here and back in the factory, too, to get there.”

Following the interview Hamilton qualified third on the grid for the Australian Grand Prix, behind Russell, and finished second after his team mate’s retirement.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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  • 44 comments on “I still love F1 but don’t like driving ‘not-great’ cars – Hamilton”

    1. Roth Man (@rdotquestionmark)
      7th April 2023, 22:03

      Problem is Lewis not only has to beat Max, he also has to beat George. Beating George will be one thing but with them taking points off each other, beating Max is a huge challenge now. Car would have to be significantly stronger than Red Bulls. This isn’t going to happen this year, so another year older.

      Never say never with Lewis mind.

      1. That’s a very good point. It is more difficult for Mercedes to win a WDC than Red Bull because the drivers are more likely to compete with each other for points. For the WCC however Mercedes would have the advantage if the teams had similar pace.

      2. If Lewis so as ever sniffs the chance of fighting for the championship George wouldn’t even be a factor.

      3. @rdotquestionmark It’s a good question but realistically, if Mercedes ever are at a level to beat Max/Red Bull, then both Mercedes drivers would be capable of doing so (I’d put George somewhere between Rosberg and Hamilton in terms of general race pace, based on the second half of last season; he’s also an excellent racer). And if so, then it could work in their favour, relegating Max to third in races where Mercedes have the edge. Still a long way off though. Australia was probably a bit of a positive outlier for them.

    2. He likes to win, but he no longer likes to race. That’s why imo Alonso is a much bigger champion.

      1. I disagree. I think he does enjoy racing. You can see that he still has a racer’s instinct. However, he’s used to racing for wins and championships, not for the odd podium if he’s lucky in a car he has to drag there.

        He wants to be back in a car where he can fight for the top spots again, and who can blame him? He’s a top flight driver, knowing he doesn’t have the car to win races regularly no matter how well he drives can’t be enjoyable for him.

        1. Exactly @drmouse – every race driver likes to be in the car that is great to drive and seconds faster than the field. So Hamilton doesn’t like driving a car that feels worse to drive than what he had before, who wouldn’t.

          But he clearly shows that he’s working to get the car better and fighting to get the most out of it. Even it is surely sometimes is frustrating.

        2. greasemonkey
          9th April 2023, 23:56

          I agree with “He likes to win, but he no longer likes to race” being likely, and I also don’t think that is mutually exclusive with “still has a racer’s instinct”.

          I see Alonso as more in the Andretti (Mario) and Foyt (other #14) vein. I mean Mario still found a way to be driving an IndyCar up until of a couple years ago.

          Hamilton is maybe a bit more Lauda-like, maybe Schumi-like, which is fine, where motivating factor are maybe a little more complex and mingled.

          I’m not sure one way is inherently more “great” than the other, but I think the Andretti-vein is maybe more fun to watch.

          1. I don’t really see any evidence that he doesn’t like to race. I’m not sure where this impression has come from with some people…

      2. That’s misreading or not reading the actual interview though.

        “I don’t like driving a car that’s not the car that we had meant to have,” Hamilton continued. “But I love that challenge of ‘what can I do with it?’ Okay, wins are not possible right now so what’s the maximum we can get?

        Lewis is never going to be satisfied occasionally winning a race in a midfield car after experiencing such dominance and winning 7(+/-) championships. He clearly is still dedicated to racing and maximizing their results though.

        1. I’m sure he still remembers those lean* McLaren years. Hopefully he doesn’t get distracted by a Lewis/Felipe distraction like 2011. I get the feeling he and Alonso are going to be around each other a lot this year; hoping for some good battles without anyone getting upset.

          *lean is definitely hyperbole when you compare the sleds Alonso had to drive over the last 10 years

      3. @spafrancorchamps I was excited about Alonso’s resurgence at the start of the season – but he’s always a bit disappointing when he’s at the sharp end of the grid, I think, and has been since 2007 really. Whereas Hamilton (and Verstappen) tend to grind out the results better when they have the chance.

        1. This is my take as well. When fighting at the front Alonso doesn’t quite extract all the points he can, Hamilton is superior there imo (2007 McLaren was prime example, Lewis was so consistent that he was dominating Alonso, and everyone else, in the points up until the bad luck of the last 2 races). But we haven’t seen Alonso fight for a championship in over a decade. It would be amazing if next season Merc and Aston get competitive with RB. Would be an incredible battle between Lewis, Alonso, Max, and perhaps Russell (I don’t think he would quite have the race pace of Lewis, especially Lewis in a championship contending car, that’s when he’s nearly untouchable).

      4. Absolutely! alonso just gets the job done irrespective of the car! this guy has become such a spoilt crybaby!
        im a big LH fan, but im happy he is getting some taste of reality.

        he has forgotten reality

    3. It seems a shame that we so rarely seem to see drivers in less competitive cars putting in heroic performances for victories or even world championships anymore. It used to be commonplace, with Tazio Nuvolari famously defeating nine powerful German cars with great drivers in the 1935 German Grand Prix in his underpowered Alfa Romeo, the greatest single race drive in motor racing history. Then Juan Manuel Fangio won the 1954 title without the best car; the Maserati similar to the Ferrari in the opening rounds and then the Mercedes W196 very good in a straight line but overall not as strong as the Ferrari. Stirling Moss spent three years in 1959-61 racing for Rob Walker’s privateer team in Coopers and Lotuses and forcing himself into title contention despite obviously inferior machinery to his rivals, with his win in Monaco 1961 another of the greatest drives ever. Jim Clark generally raced with the fastest car but had a season in 1966 when his Lotus used a 2-litre engine under a 3-litre formula and he still took pole in Monaco and the Nurburgring and led brilliantly in Zandvoort on merit. Jackie Stewart led more laps than anyone else in 1970 despite running a relatively uncompetitive privateer March, and won the title in 1973 without the best car, something that Niki Lauda also did in 1977. Gilles Villeneuve also performed heroics in the difficult Ferrari in 1981 with his two extraordinary victories in Monaco and Jarama, well above where the car should have been. Alain Prost took the title in 1986 despite a clearly inferior car to the Williams which also had two of the best drivers on the grid racing it, and even as late as 1993 and 1996, Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher were able to stand out with some remarkable performances in evidently underperforming cars.

      And yet, despite the fact that Fernando Alonso has raced in the midfield for half a decade, and Lewis Hamilton is now without a winning car, it is difficult to name a single example of them obviously standing out with an outstanding performance in a less competitive car. Perhaps part of this is down to DRS meaning that if they do find themselves in a strong position, they cannot defend from drivers behind and the superior cars are able to pass them more easily, but I think the main reason is the abundance of data and telemetry allowing the lesser drivers to learn so much more easily how to drive close to the limit of the car’s performance and as a result, all the field are so competitive and closely-matched that there is no room for the greats to stand out.

      1. Isn’t the 2012 season by alonso a pretty good example of competing for the title in a significantly inferior car, sort of what schumacher did his first ferrari years?

        1. 2012 Ferrari was not “significantly inferior car”. That is a myth. Alonso simply did not manage the pressure in the second half of the season and under-delivered on multiple occasions.

          1. I’ve said it before on here and will no doubt have to say it again – but it’s really important that those who contribute to this forum give balanced views with context and evidence to help support new fans coming in.

            Frankly, you’ve made up that Alonso cracked under pressure. He lost the majority of his points at Spa and Suzuka with start line incidents. You’ll do very well to convince me that his Spa retirement was due to ‘pressure’. Suzuka – it’s a first corner racing incident exacerbated by starting lower on the grid than he would have liked in 7th.

            As for significantly inferior – it’s depends on who decides what constitutes significant. But for inferior there is no doubt – we have the stats over one lap. Using this metric Ferrari were the 4th fastest team in 2012. They have the outright fastest car once ,in Britain. McLaren had the fastest 9 times, RB 7, Lotus 2 and Mercedes 1. Red bull were faster 15 times versus Ferrari in 20 races including 7 of the first 8 and 8 of the last 10. The five races in the middle Alonso won one, on the podium in 2 and included the Spa incident.

            Whilst outright fastest lap over the weekend is not the purest metric we can use – it does illustrate that Alonso was racing for the podium not the win in most races. To my mind, it’s the greatest all round season from a driver not to win the title ever, and better than most championship winning seasons.

            1. @rbalonso Couldn’t agree more. I think part of the problem with the 2012 discourse is that people tend to argue on both extreme ends of the spectrum. Either the Ferrari was fully competitive and on the pace, or it was a complete dog barely faster than a backmarker. The truth is more as you said – the Ferrari was 3rd to 4th fastest on a single lap and well behind the McLaren and Redbull, but closer to their pace in race trim. Alonso dragged the car into contention through a combination of relentless consistency in picking up podiums, better reliability than their competitors and, though it might be hilarious to think of these days, consistently good race strategy and almost no team errors – unlike McLaren in particular who threw away Hamilton’s season with a series of blunders and mechanical failures.

            2. @keithedin agreed with everything you said. Makes me think – what if McLaren didn’t shi!t the bed, and Hamilton takes the title. Surely he stays, Mercedes take on Hulk (or DiResta?), and Rosberg walks to title after title after 2014?

        2. Nobody is fighting for titles in cars and teams that aren’t competitive in an at least somewhat equal number of races as the other leading cars. The 2012 season was simply one in which that specific number wasn’t (nearly) equal to the total number of races.

          Yes, Alonso did a good job throughout much of 2012 – not so much towards the end, though – but his (!) repeated framing that the Red Bull was so superior and that the McLaren was incredible has been given far too much weight. Red Bull and McLaren may have ultimately had the better car, but they each had numerous operational and technical problems that Ferrari, by and large, managed not to have.

          What Ferrari also didn’t have, and which cost them big time, was a competitive second driver. I don’t recall exactly, but I think Massa only finished ahead of Vettel 1 or 2 times all season.

          1. Whilst I wholeheartedly agree that Massa’s performance was to Alonso’s detriment in 2012, I’m not sure where you’ve got the idea Alonso’s end of the season wasn’t a “good job”. In the second half of the season he was on the podium in the 7 of the 8 races he finished. Vettel was on the podium 7 times too but finished 9 races and was out of podium places in sixth when he retired in Italy, 6 laps from home. By contrast Kimi was on the podium 4 times and Hamilton 3.

            As I’ve mentioned in a reply above the Ferrari was faster than the Red Bull outright on lap pace 5 times all season and only once overall. The red bull was fastest 7 times and 15 times ahead of the Ferrari. So I think it’s a fair characterisation to say the cars themselves were significantly better for Alonso’s championship rivals. Regarding reliability, Vettel’s car only failed him twice in the race all season, so the disparity is not as wide as is sometimes made out or anywhere near as poor as McLaren’s.

            I agree Ferrari made the best of every race but that should not be viewed as a bad thing – I think most people would rather have a faster car from the outset.

      2. What do you think you’re doing, talking like this to Liberty Media’s Drive to Survive fans?

      3. @F1 frog:
        While not untrue, I feel a very important factor is skipped over. And that is reliability. A slower car that blows up less over a season is in contention. Until only recent times so many cars would not even make it to the finish. Combine this with fewer races so the faster car has less time to compensate points lost. Also take into consideration a much greater spread in car performance and driver skill. We can complain McLaren is slow now but in reality it is still easy for all teams to qualify within the 107% rule. Also, Maldonado and Mazepin are not that bad.

        So all things considered we won’t see midfield cars in title contention anymore. True. But we also don’t see only 5 cars making it to the finish line, 2 on the lead lap, 3rd being lapped and 4 and 5 3 laps down. And the final point awarded to the car that blew up last and therefore classified 6th..

      4. @f1frog I think there’s a few reasons for that. One is DRS as you mentioned which enables faster cars to easily regain position if they find themselves behind for whatever reason, meaning that defending from a faster car for lap after lap is impossible on most circuits. Second is improved reliability which means there are just far fewer opportunities where multiple front-runners retire from races enabling a slower car to take a big result like a podium or a win.

        But a big one I think is that the differences in the level of driving from the best drivers on the grid to the worst is much, much lower today than it was in decades past. The backmarkers do get criticised a lot, especially when they make errors, but in terms of pure pace there is probably a difference of less than 1 second a lap in normal conditions from the slowest to the fastest driver on the grid. Even the rookies and the pay drivers are so much better prepared, trained, coached and practiced than many of the drivers of the past who were pretty much amateurs who picked up racing later in life having never grown up with karts or anything like that to hone their skills over many years.

    4. Try for another 17 years & you might learn a bit

    5. f you ask all drivers, they all will say that they would prefer a winning car. Nothing new here.
      He should be more open and say that he’ll stop if they can’t get him a car that’s a couple seconds faster than all others.

      1. Why would he say or expect that?
        What a bizarre comment.

        1. The comment is not bizarre. MB doesn’t seem to be in championship way any time soon so if he stays is only for milking money.

          1. So, if he stays, it’s only for the money and proves he needs a dominant car to win. If he stays, he’s being a spoiler baby and proves he needs a dominant car to win…

            Or maybe, if he stays, it’s because he loves racing and doesn’t see the need to quit just because he doesn’t have a championship-worthy car, and if he leaves, it’s because he’s got nothing left to prove and would prefer to do something else.

            With a strong enough bias, you can twist anything to confirm that bias.

    6. Let him be like Hulk, that never had a real car and see if he still “love” F1. ,

    7. Sound to me he doesn’t like the position he and his team are in, but loves to work to extract everything possible from the car, even if it’s not a winner and be in shape to be at his best and fight for the title if Mercedes gets the car right. The title sounded more negative than the actual comment to me.

      1. I think that’s a recurring complaint, from different people, that the headlines sometimes exagerate comments by drivers.

        1. Seems to becoming more like the F1 show sadly.

    8. I’m not a Hamilton fan, but the title to this post is click bait. Hamilton says he doesn’t like not having a winning car (who doesn’t?), but he also says he will do the best he can with what he’s got and if it’s third because of good driving then that’s success. When you actually read the comment, it makes sense; he wishes he had more, but he will press on with what he’s got and enjoy exceeding the car. Good for him.

      1. @stever
        Good call. We should be critical or else this will all sink down to gutter media level. I feel the same happened to the Vasseur article.

        1. It’s irritating… This site isn’t as bad as some, but its definitely headed down the click-bait road in the past few years. Not long ago, it was a site for the real fanatics, but it seems to be pandering more and more to the more casual games who will be taken in by all this. It makes me sad…

    9. Well, that has been the reality for everyone the past decade, except for Lewis. So, understandable from his angle and as current situation it perhaps offers him some perspective on life and growth.

      1. As usual… no surprises there…

        If you don’t shade him, you always have nothing else to say. Good for you, eh?

        well, he has been in the situation before even in the past decade cos we all know he did not join a race winning team in 2013. that season, it was a midfield car. Let’s not go into the McLaren days

        1. Yeah, he has had such a tough time in F1.

    10. You can’t expect people who barely got there and did not score a point to enjoy it as much as a guy who won 100+ races.

      Even most champions can’t say they experienced what Hamilton, Verstappen now, Vettel and Schumacher did.

      So it’s understandable a few people have a very different perception of F1 to most of the others. His cars are ok, just not winners. At least he’s bringing the results and not throwing the towel early just because he already knows he won’t be a contender this year again.

    11. Some of us have poor or short memories… Alonso couldn’t do ot in ferrari and became frustrated and left. He couldn’t do it in mclaren. He even publicly unashamedly embarrassed Honda at their home race. Screeming “GP2 ENGINE!” repeatedly. Why does the bar always move for Lewis? Such is racism i guess. Even the below radar racism.

      1. lol, racism…yeah, that must be it. 🙄

        Hamilton wishes he had the adaptability of Alonso.

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