Hamilton wants to prove himself against new F1 generation

Formula 1
Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton says he sees 2020 as a fresh start and another chance to prove himself against Formula 1’s new generation of drivers.

The Mercedes driver won his sixth world championship in 2019 and next year can equal Michael Schumacher’s all-time record of seven drivers’ titles.

Hamilton said it was “surreal” to be mentioned in relation to the German.

“Each year, it’s a new, fresh start for everyone, a new chance to rise to the challenge,” Hamilton said.

The 34-year-old was speaking during the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award show, in which he finished second in the public vote to cricketer Ben Stokes.

“You know, honestly, I never look at records,” Hamilton said. “I don’t really know why.

“I just remember growing up in Stevenage and watching Michael Schumacher win world championships, so it’s very, very surreal still to this day to have my name brought up in the same sentence as his.

“That’s a real honour and something my family are very, very proud of.

“I am inspired by so many people who are here in the UK, here in the audience, so many of the sportsmen and women who are doing great, great things.

“And if there is one young kid who sees what I do – or even adult – and it helps them get across the line, that would make me really happy.”

Hamilton won 11 of the 21 grands prix on his way to the title in 2019 and he said it had been “an incredible year”.

But he is already looking forward to the challenge of 2020, when among his biggest threats in addition to team-mate Valtteri Bottas are expected to be rising stars Max Verstappen of Red Bull and Charles Leclerc at Ferrari, both of whom are just 22 and who finished last season third and fourth behind Hamilton and Bottas.

Lewis Hamilton

“Working with this huge team, each year coming with the focus and being able to deliver and raise the bar each year – many of the champions out there know how hard that is,” Hamilton said.

“I’ve been very proud of working with this great team Mercedes.

“There are a lot of young drivers now. I am the second oldest driver now in F1 and (the target is) to continue to find new levels, new heights and raise the bar.”

The challenge of the new generation of F1 drivers is a theme Hamilton has returned to repeatedly through 2019.

And he will be expecting a renewed challenge from Ferrari, after the Italian team’s disappointing year in 2019, in which they won only three races and faced questions about the legality of their engine.

Ferrari’s major problem last season was a lack of aerodynamic downforce, which meant the car lacked grip in corners and over-worked its tyres over a race distance.

Team boss Mattia Binotto said Ferrari were making major changes to car and engine for next season in the attempt to challenge Mercedes more vigorously.

“Our car next year is aiming for a lot more downforce by having more downforce, certainly more drag,” said Binotto.

“We are not expecting to be as fast on the straight as we have been. But you never know what the others are doing.

“The things that we learned, we recognise that we need to have certainly more downforce – as we saw at the end of the season, still there is a gap to close.”

He also said the engine would also be extensively revised.

“We have changed, by quite a lot, our power unit, in terms of architecture, the cylinder,” Binotto said.

“It’s quite a big review just to show that here again, there is much that can be done.”

Pre-season testing is on 19-21 and 26-28 February and the season starts in Australia on 13-15 March.

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