Formula One: Hamilton assures Mercedes he is focused on fightback

British driver Lewis Hamilton celebrating after winning the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix on Nov 27, 2016. During that race, Hamilton consistently defied orders from his team in his bid for a fourth world title.
British driver Lewis Hamilton celebrating after winning the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix on Nov 27, 2016. During that race, Hamilton consistently defied orders from his team in his bid for a fourth world title. PHOTO: AFP

Mercedes do not expect new pairing between Bottas and Briton to result in a 'smooth ride'

LONDON • Lewis Hamilton has cleared the air with Mercedes after a controversial end to last season in which he defied team orders and warred with team-mate and eventual world champion Nico Rosberg, who then surprisingly quit the sport.

The team's executive director Toto Wolff said that he and Hamilton had a good discussion at the Austrian's house in Oxford at the end of the season "once the storm had calmed down".

At the last race of the season in Abu Dhabi, three-time world champion Hamilton consistently defied orders from his team in his bid for a fourth world title.

Wolff went on to say that he could not have "anarchy" in the team.

"We cleared the air with things that were out there on his side and on our side and it was a very good discussion. We left it in a very good place," the 45-year-old told BBC 5Live.

"Hamilton has digested losing out to Nico. He seems in very good spirits. The only thing he has on his mind is trying to fight back. He's certainly very motivated."

After the shock announcement of Rosberg's retirement before the FIA (International Automobile Federation) prize-giving ceremony in Vienna in December, Mercedes employed Williams driver Valtteri Bottas as his replacement.

Wolff described the Finn as "unpolitical" and very calm but he has "no doubt" that the relationship between his two drivers could be difficult.

"I don't expect this to be much (of) a smooth ride," he added.

Bottas has never won a race in Formula One and will be eager to change now that he drives for the team that have won the constructors' and drivers' world championships for three successive years.

Williams confirmed on Thursday that former Ferrari chief aerodynamicist Dirk De Beer is joining the team on March 1 to head the aero department.

"His knowledge and technical expertise will undoubtedly be a great asset to the team in our continued push to restore Williams to the front of the grid," said deputy team principal Claire Williams.

The South African worked previously at Sauber, Renault and Lotus before joining Ferrari in 2013. His departure from the Italian team was announced last season.

Former champions Williams finished fifth overall last season but are undergoing a technical revamp following the departure of engineering head Pat Symonds.

Canadian rookie Lance Stroll and Brazilian veteran Felipe Massa are the 2017 drivers.

Former Mercedes technical head Paddy Lowe is expected to join, once his "gardening leave" from the world champions is completed.

Aerodynamics will be a highlight this season, with the introduction of new regulations that will see cars cornering faster on much bigger tyres.

THE TIMES, LONDON, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 18, 2017, with the headline 'Hamilton focused on fightback'. Print Edition | Subscribe