‘Happy’ Lewis Hamilton still hungry for record eighth world title – Damon Hill
Damon Hill has praised Lewis Hamilton for the “admirable” way he “kept his chin up” after the controversy of Abu Dhabi – and believes the Mercedes man is “absolutely motivated” to win a record eighth world title.
Eighteen months have passed since Hamilton lost out to Max Verstappen at the contentious season finale, with his Dutch rival going on to take last year’s title too.
And Verstappen, 69 points clear in this season’s championship, is primed to complete his hat-trick.
Hamilton, 38, has not won a race since the penultimate round of the 2021 campaign – the longest losing streak of his career – but he heads to this weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix following two consecutive podium finishes in his revamped Mercedes machine.
“It is admirable the way Lewis kept his chin up after what happened in Abu Dhabi,” Hill, the 1996 world champion, told the PA news agency.
“He got back on with the task in hand and he is driving better again this year than he has done before. He is starting to gel with that car now and he has solved some of the problems he faced.
“So I would be amazed if he doesn’t want to go out on a high by winning that eighth title, and he is absolutely motivated by that. He has got that longevity and he looks after himself.
“He needs a competitive car, half-a-chance, and someone like Lewis will rise up to that challenge and find more in himself. At the moment we are seeing a happier Hamilton, and a happy Hamilton is a fast Hamilton.”
The British driver’s future on the grid, however, remains a hot topic of speculation.
Hamilton has entered the final six months of his current £40million-a-season contract with Mercedes. But despite a string of recent discussions with team principal Toto Wolff, a conclusion to the saga is not understood to be imminent.
“The talk is that Lewis is finalising a much longer-term deal that goes beyond his racing career,” added Hill, 62.
“The car company itself is involved, so there is a bit more bureaucracy in this deal.”
Hamilton is already 93 points behind Verstappen in the standings after the Red Bull driver raced to his sixth victory from eight rounds to equal Ayrton Senna’s career tally of 41 wins last time out in Canada.
Following Verstappen’s triumph, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said his star driver must now be considered among Formula One’s all-time greats.
“Comparing different eras is quite difficult,” said Hill, who was speaking at his Halow Project charity event in Sandown following a world-first kart run on Zero synthetic fuel.
“They do many more races than they used to in the sport. But, nevertheless, in every era there are one or two drivers who are the cream of the crop, and you have to say Max is one of them, along with Lewis and Fernando (Alonso).
“I certainly see him having his own era called ‘the Max Verstappen era’ where he wins practically everything.
“If you appreciate great drivers and the job they do then it is great to watch. But I understand people want to see a race and not a demonstration and we have to be patient and hope the others catch him up pretty quickly.”