Hamilton will be ‘always a fork’ at Domenicali RaceFans

If the 2022 Formula 1 season ends today, Lewis Hamilton’s sixth place in the drivers’ championship would be the worst of his 16-year career.

With six races remaining, that could change: Even second place in the standings isn’t far off. There are many opportunities for a Mercedes driver to score points and his rivals in front to get rid of them.

But by almost all accounts, this has been the most challenging and least rewarding season of Hamilton’s illustrious career. He has had two of his worst Formula 1 racing weekends – in Jeddah and Imola, where he finished 10th and 13th respectively while teammate George Russell finished fifth and fourth.

However, perhaps the Mercedes driver’s lowest moment came at the Belgian Grand Prix, where the accidental opening lap with Fernando Alonso ended his race and destroyed a young power unit in the process. Speaking to select media including RaceFans four days after that setback, it was clear the fusion of frustration, guilt and determination that the crash had created within Hamilton.

The first lap tangle with Alonso ruined the Belgian Hamilton Grand Prix

“The last few days have not been easy and I can’t stand the little mistakes I made,” he said at Zandvoort. And some people will say, ‘Okay, don’t be hard on yourself,’ but that’s how I should be the driver I am today.

“There are a lot of implications for a mistake like, for example, the mistake you just made. Team, damage, points for team, morale. So I go back to the factory and say, ‘I’m so sorry.’ But we win and lose as a team and we go down together and that is The part I really like.”

But Hamilton’s support comes from far beyond just his team. As a driver, he receives a lot of encouragement from his close friends and family, as well as broad international support from millions of fans all over the world. Hamilton says he remains fully aware while on the track.

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“I’m not alone in riding an emotional rollercoaster,” he says. “I feel bad for my friends who came here [Spa] And I sat there ready to go, even if they were one of a couple in Max’s big orange field [Verstappen] fans.

W13 has been an annoying machine most of the year

“I’m so proud of them for their courage, especially with what’s going on this year, it’s not easy standing in a crowd of opponent fans. But they were amazing, so I know I have to come back for them too. So that’s what I’m trying to do.”

In an effort to help bring Mercedes back to the fore, Hamilton and Russell spent half a season punishing their own bodies and enduring multiple disappointments as they puzzled over the puzzles thrown into W13. So the last summer break in August was a relief to Hamilton.

Instead of the comfort of home, Hamilton chose to explore Africa. As the most outspoken advocate of F1’s return to the only inhabited continent not to host a round of world champions, it seems that having a chance to explore Africa in all its vast diversity was exactly what Hamilton needed after his more challenging half. A year of his F1 career.

Fans’ “courage” made an impression on Hamilton

“It’s like in general in life we ​​take things for granted because they exist,” he says. “But it puts a lot of things into perspective.

“Seeing the animals in their natural habitat was…”Wow”. When we were in Tanzania, I felt like I was in The Lion King. After midday, I’d be working out at the gym and zebra outside or elephants outside or getting out of the gym and walking To your room there are elephants 50 meters away and you’re like ‘woah’.

“Africa also has rich cities and big companies, but I really wanted to get to the heart of the continent. I’ve seen some of these things in the past. I’ve been to South Africa before, and I went on a safari when I came down to see Nelson Mandela with my family. But I’m a different part of my life.” [now].

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“I was able to appreciate it so much more and found it really basic, very pivotal. And it was fun. My friends and I had fun—lots of laughs, that you get a stitch, which sometimes when you work, you don’t get that. So it was good get that.”

He has not participated in Formula 1 in Africa since 1993 – when Hamilton was eight years old

Hamilton’s influence extends far beyond his status as a world-class athlete and record-breaking racing driver. Aside from the millions of followers and wealth of celebrity names on his contact list, he has the ear of Formula 1 CEO Stefano Domenicali – and racing in the country is high on Hamilton’s agenda.

“We are on all other continents, so why not?” asks Hamilton. “We go to a lot of these places to highlight those countries and those communities there, so there was no reason not to do that in Africa.”

South Africa may not appear in the 2023 F1 calendar released earlier this week, but the 2024 race is believed to be on paper.

“I’ve been working as hard as I can with Stefano in the background to try and make that happen,” says Hamilton. “It’s also a dream for me to have that before I stop racing – racing in Africa would be unbelievable.

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“But also the time I’ve been there, just seeing the kids on the streets, it’s kind of a highlight that can be done for young kids in communities that don’t have the same opportunities that we do, whether it’s clothing, there are a lot of great organizations. So now I’m looking In it to see how I can get more involved.”

Vettel has become an advocate for environmental issues

Hamilton is perhaps the most famous driver to talk about where he feels that Formula 1 and broader motorsport can and should be better, but he has certainly not been alone in recent years. His former rival and good friend Sebastian Vettel also developed a deep and strong sense of social justice and was not afraid to express himself using his status as a driver and multiple world champion.

But Hamilton will lose that accompanying voice when Vettel retires from F1 at the end of the season. Hamilton is quick to express his sincere appreciation and respect for his colleague and friend.

“With Seb, we’ve had some great races in the past and I’m very proud of him,” said Hamilton.

“How he went through his journey and how he opened up and how candid he was and how he found the things he spoke frankly about and still does. I have no doubt that whatever he plans to do in the future, he will continue to do so.”

It was difficult to achieve that mutual respect when the duo were battling for championships in 2017 and 2018, admits Hamilton. “It’s hard to be friends when you’re in a head-to-head battle and one of you wins. The psychological war you’re going through…it’s tough.

“But to be able to get out of that and be good friends that I think will continue to grow and be better friends in the future, I’m really grateful for that.”

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As the world championship schedule expands and evolves to gain new footholds around the world on an almost annual basis, Hamilton continues to face criticism over his support for diversity and equality as Formula One spreads to new countries where women and LGBT communities do not have the same rights as those in the West. It’s a tough situation to be in, Hamilton admits.

“I try not to worry about it because it’s kind of out of my control,” he says.

“Sometimes you end up in the uncomfortable position of having to openly talk about things or get questioned about them. It certainly isn’t easy. I just try to understand as little as I can about where I’m going. The truth is that no You can change the world in a short amount of time. So just trying to understand where people are in different cultures and religions and all that kind of thing.”

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Jeddah Corniche Circuit, 2021
Hamilton won the first Saudi Grand Prix in a pride helmet

Finally, Hamilton’s voice among his fellow drivers will also be lost when time calls for his own career, leaving behind a younger generation that many fans expect to continue the progressive push for which Vettel and Hamilton have been at the forefront. Is he concerned, asks RaceFans, that the positive legacy he is fighting to leave behind could be lost with his departure?

“It’s not easy for the young people who are coming in,” he says. “I just think at some point in their lives, I hope they get to that point. But I wasn’t there when I was in my twenties and I think that’s just part of the journey,

“I hope at some point we will have more young people speaking out in the future because this is about accountability and the people who lead our industry and our teams. We have to keep them doing the right thing and for the right reasons.”

But even after he raced in the last grand prix and completed the last lap, Lewis Hamilton is adamant that his influence in the sport will continue – especially with regard to Stefano Domenicali.

“I always will, even if I’m not racing,” he insists. “Maybe from afar, I will always be a fan of this sport.

And I hope Stefano has been here for a very long time. I’ll always be on the other end of the phone and say ‘Hey, why don’t you do this?’ You are not doing this enough. So I will always be that thorn that I hope will spark some interesting conversations.”

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