F1

Lewis Hamilton determined to return Mercedes to the top before joining Ferrari

Hamilton will join Ferrari from the start of next season.

Lewis Hamilton is determined to return Mercedes to the top before he joins Ferrari
Lewis Hamilton is determined to return Mercedes to the top before he joins Ferrari Lewis Hamilton is determined to return Mercedes to the top before he joins Ferrari (Tim Goode/PA)

Lewis Hamilton is determined to fire Mercedes back to former glories as he gears up for his season swansong before quitting for Ferrari.

Hamilton stunned the sporting world by ditching Mercedes – the constructor which has carried him to six of his record-equalling seven world championships – in favour of a move to their rivals next year.

On Wednesday, the 39-year-old made his first public appearance since news of his shock transfer broke.

Standing alongside team principal Toto Wolff, Hamilton faced just three questions from Mercedes’ in-house moderator in a nine-minute, no-frills and perhaps awkward – given the rawness of the British driver’s decision – car launch.

“The focus through the whole of winter training is getting the team back to where we once were,” said Hamilton.

“We have had these difficult couple of years which have been really grounding for us. It has helped us regroup and really look at things.

“(The last few weeks) have obviously been emotional and it is very surreal to be here.”

Hamilton, who joined Mercedes from McLaren in 2013, signed a two-year contract extension only last August. But over the winter he elected to terminate his £100million deal 12 months early.

Mercedes unveiled their challenger for the new season on Wednesday
The 2024 Mercedes F1 car Mercedes unveiled their challenger for the new season on Wednesday (Mercedes/Handout/PA)

Last year marked a second straight season without a victory for Hamilton – a losing streak which now stands at 45 races – and Mercedes’ first winless campaign in a dozen years.

They finished an eye-watering 413 points behind Red Bull while Hamilton, third in the individual standings, was 341 points adrift of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen as the Dutchman secured a hat-trick of world crowns.

Wolff metaphorically conceded at the final round in Abu Dhabi that Mercedes will have to scale Mount Everest to topple Verstappen.

But on Wednesday, Wolff said: “This is a complete relaunch of a car. It is very different, not only aerodynamically but underneath the car too.

“There have been so many mechanical changes which we hope will translate into more performance, more predictability and a car the drivers can really push.

“The most important thing is to look inward and what is it that we got wrong? We found some clues, we tried to eliminate as many variables as we could and the buzz in the company is something I have not seen for so many years.

“We know it is a big mountain to climb because if a team is so far ahead like Red Bull were last year then it is not easy.

“But we have a superb driver combination and hopefully a fast car. There are some good ingredients to be back at the front again.”

The Austrian, informed of Hamilton’s shock transfer only a fortnight ago, added: “It will be our last season with Lewis so we are keen on bringing a quick car.”

Hamilton and team-mate George Russell were given their first taste of their new car during a damp shakedown test at Silverstone.

On Thursday, the spotlight will be back on embattled Red Bull team principal Christian Horner as the world champions present their machine for the new campaign.

Horner is under investigation by the Formula One team’s parent company Red Bull GmBH following an accusation of “inappropriate behaviour” by a female colleague.

Last Friday, Horner was questioned by a lawyer for eight hours. He categorically denies the claim.

Horner remains in his role and he will speak to the media on Thursday at the team’s Milton Keynes HQ – although it is understood legalities around the process mean that questions relating to the internal investigation will be off-limits.

F1’s sole pre-season test gets under way in Bahrain on February 21, ahead of the opening race, also in the Gulf kingdom, on March 2.