[F1 2018 NEWS FEATURE] LEWIS HAMILTON: CONFIDENCE WAVE

Four-time Formula 1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton heads into his 12th season, with confidence stacked sky high…

The 33-year-old is the most successful British Grand Prix driver of all-time, his four titles outshining Sir Jackie Stewart’s three.

… while his outright records include 72 pole positions, 118 front row starts and 2610 points scored. His 62 wins and 117 podiums putting him second only to Michael Schumacher.

Despite all that, Hamilton is still hungry for more success in 2018.

SOUNDBITE (English) LEWIS HAMILTON,
4-TIME F1 WORLD CHAMPION:
“My off-season, whilst it seems short, it seems a long time off from racing, and that’s really what sparks the fire in my heart - you know, competing, trying to outperform other drivers, and always trying to strive for perfection. You know, I love that.”

And it was evident Hamilton loved his fight with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel last year, the Brit able to fight harder than he could when teammate Nico Rosberg was his main rival – and without the mind games post-race. His new teammate Valtteri Bottas also a straight shooter.

This year, it should be more of the same with Bottas and Ferrari set to go up a gear – and Red Bull Racing hoping to join the battle. And there’s lots on the line…

A shot at equalling the Maestro, Juan Manuel Fangio, on five world titles.

A new Mercedes contract, likely three years from 2019 to the end of 2021 said to be worth up to $160 million US dollars, excluding bonuses.

…taking his total net worth to $340 million US dollars, based on the $180 million US dollar figure reported in last year’s Sunday Times Rich List.

But Mercedes says he’s worth every cent.

SOUNDBITE (English) TOTO WOLFF,
HEAD OF MOTORSPORT, MERCEDES:
“As a driver he is extremely gifted and talented, he has great racecraft. In my opinion [he’s] the best driver of modern times. As a personality, [he’s] somebody that is very self critical that develops all the time, that is able to step up from year to year.”

And while Hamilton is yet to show his hand, finishing eighth fastest in pre-season testing on the ultrasoft tyres – it’s Mercedes’ standard operating procedure to keep its true pace a secret until the opening round.

But despite Fangio’s record now within reach, Hamilton still can’t imagine himself beating Schumacher’s seven titles.

SOUNDBITE (English) LEWIS HAMILTON,
4-TIME F1 WORLD CHAMPION:
"I can't see it at the moment, four more. Well, you can imagine it's taken me 10 years to achieve these four. I currently still don't have that desire to match it."

And many think even equalling the German will be a big ask.

SOUNDBITE (English) ANDREW WESTACOTT,
CEO, AUSTRALIAN GP CORPORATION:
“I think Lewis [Hamilton] is going to struggle to get to the seven that Michael [Schumacher] achieved, but I do think that he’s got a number of really big years still left in him.”

Whether Hamilton retires at the end of his next contract, likely to be 2021 – or continues beyond that – will depend on the Brit’s happiness.

… especially within his own team, and while teammate Bottas has been a soothing force so far after the painful war with Rosberg, the Finn doesn’t want to play second fiddle this time around.

SOUNDBITE (English) VALTTERI BOTTAS,
F1 DRIVER, MERCEDES:
“My targets need to be higher, and I’m going to be asking from myself a bit more consistency over the season. So I want to be performing in every single race at a good level. I got my first wins, first poles and now I’m very hungry for more.”

So, it’s game on for Hamilton, but if he again rides that wave of confidence that defined his campaign last year, his main competitors will need to bring their A-games.