Lewis Hamilton says it feels ‘surreal’ to enter his last season at Mercedes with car launch


SILVERSTONE, England (AP) — Seven-time Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton said Wednesday it feels “surreal” to be entering his last season with Mercedes before joining Ferrari for 2025.

Speaking as Mercedes unveiled its 2024 car at Silverstone, home of the British Grand Prix, Hamilton said it has been a privilege to work with the team.

Hamilton has driven for Mercedes since 2013, winning six of his seven titles with the team, but is leaving at the end of the season to join Ferrari. The move has shaken up F1 and surprised Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff.

“It has obviously been emotional,” Hamilton said. “It’s very surreal to be here, given I came here in 2013, so 11 years with the team, starting my 12th, and it is such a privilege to work with a group of people where you see the work they’re doing over the winter.”

Mercedes was due to do a brief “shakedown” run at Silverstone on Wednesday before heading to Bahrain for three days of pre-season testing next week. The focus will be on “getting the team back to where we once were,” Hamilton said. “I think we’ve had this difficult couple of years, which I think has been really grounding for us. It’s helped us regroup.”

Wolff said the 2024 Mercedes car, the W15, represents “a complete relaunch” of the design. The livery brings back a flash of Mercedes’ traditional silver on the nose after last year’s mostly-black look.

“It’s very different, not only on the aerodynamic surfaces, but mainly underneath,” Wolff said. “There are so many mechanical changes that we have done which we hope are going to translate into more performance, more predictability, a car that the drivers can really push, and we should be seeing next week in Bahrain.”

When the rules changed for 2022 to reintroduce ground-effect aerodynamics, Mercedes struggled to adapt. The team did not win a race last season as Red Bull and its driver Max Verstappen dominated all year.

“We know it’s difficult, we know it’s a big mountain to climb because, if a team’s far ahead like the Red Bull was last year, that’s not easy,” Wolff said.

“We have a superb driver combination, hopefully a fast car, the best people in the factory that are giving it all to succeed, I think there’s some very good ingredients to be back in the front again.”

Ferrari team principal Fred Vasseur said Tuesday that Hamilton’s arrival would be a “huge opportunity” for the Italian team, which has not had one of its drivers win the world title since Kimi Raikkonen beat Hamilton in 2007.

Hamilton will team up with Charles Leclerc at Ferrari in 2025, leaving Leclerc’s current teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. to seek out a new team for next year.


AP auto racing: https://apnews.com/hub/auto-racing

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