Fitter, meaner Hamilton issues warning to rivals

LONDON • Lewis Hamilton has said he feels on another level ahead of the Formula One season as he attempts to equal Michael Schumacher's record haul of seven world championships.

The Briton, seeking a fourth straight title, has spent much of the off season in the United States before returning to the home of his Mercedes team in Northamptonshire, England, on Wednesday.

"It has been an incredible winter," he said in an online message to his fans. "I have spent a lot of time with family and friends.

"I would say probably one of the best times has been with my dad, and secondly, the training has been different this year.

"The feeling I have, both physically and mentally, is on another level compared to last year. That is a real positive."

But he admitted there is still a lot of work to do before the season opener in Australia on March 15, saying: "I know you guys are gunning for title No. 7 but we have to take it one step at a time.

"We have no idea where we are going to stand compared to everybody else, so we have to be more efficient this year, particularly as we have less testing time."

The 35-year-old's contract expires this season and he is in negotiations with Mercedes over a deal which could be worth up to £60 million (S$108 million) a year.

The Briton is set to drive the W11 car for the first time today during a private event at Northamptonshire's Silverstone track, the home of the British Grand Prix.

Then, it is on to the Feb 19-21 and Feb 26-28 official testing sessions in Barcelona.

Ferrari, who launched their car on Tuesday, have played down reports that they are looking to bring in Hamilton, insisting they want to retain Sebastian Vettel alongside Charles Leclerc next year.

Four-time champion Vettel is out of contract at the end of the year, and Renault driver Daniel Ricciardo joked he is ready to take up the hot seat should it be available.

Asked if he would pick up the phone if the Italian team rang, the Australian said: "Mate, to be honest, I'm obviously answering all calls. But you know I signed a two-year deal with Renault.

"So my complete focus is with the yellow and with France at the moment."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 14, 2020, with the headline 'Fitter, meaner Hamilton issues warning to rivals'. Print Edition | Subscribe