Just one race into the season and already there are questions about Lewis Hamilton’s future and whether he’ll be on the 2023 grid.
Former driver turned commentator Martin Brundle says that depends on whether Mercedes are out in front, and if he’s still enjoying all the off-track commitments that go hand-in-hand with being a Formula 1 driver.
Last season, having lost out on the opportunity to win a record-breaking eighth World title in dubious circumstances, questions were asked about whether Hamilton would like up on the grid for this year’s championship.
After two months of silence, the Briton declared “I’m back” and last Sunday bagged a podium finish at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.
That, however, was more fortuitous than car related, Hamilton benefitting from Red Bull’s late result double DNF.
Mercedes have problems, Andy Shovlin admitting there is a “lot of everything” wrong with this year’s W13 and that Mercedes are now in a race against time to fix those problems.
And if they don’t, Brundle says they may lose Hamilton at the end of this season.
“As long as he still has the motivation to get in the gym and to get on a plane… the hours of debriefing afterwards and the hours of media, talking to the likes of me – that’s what the drivers hate, basically. They just want to drive racing cars,” the commentator told foxsports.com.au.
“As long as he’s still enjoying the bits around F1 or he can tolerate those bits around F1 and balance it out with just loving driving the car, [he’ll stay].
“[But] if he goes through the whole year and Mercedes are third fastest and others are catching them up, then I suspect he’ll take a different view and my enjoyment analogy will play out in that he won’t be enjoying it anymore.”
This year’s championship is the first season in Hamilton’s two-year extension, the Briton have signed a new deal last year.
But while the situation looks bleak for the 37-year-old as he chases that eighth World title, Brundle is convinced he is as motivated as ever before to bag another Drivers’ Championship.
“I think he’s still hugely motivated,” he said. “I think even despite being 37 years old he’s still at the peak of his talent. George Russell will push him hard, and I think he’ll have an answer for that.
“I think he’s such a force of nature.
“What else is he going to do with all that energy and competitive spirit and adrenaline? We’re all adrenaline junkies when we’ve been racing F1 for a number of years.
“Lewis has so many ambitions to change many things around the world – I really admire him for that – and he knows that Formula 1’s a platform to be able to do that.
“So I think as long as he’s still on balance enjoying it and he’s fast enough, he’ll keep doing it, and I think he’ll see beyond a bit of a bumpy ride.”