Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has reiterated that Sir Lewis Hamilton has no intention of leaving Formula 1 any time soon as the team try to resurrect their title-winning form.
Mass speculation surrounded Hamilton at the end of the 2021 season after he was cruelly denied his eighth word championship by a controversial Safety Car restart by now former race director Michael Masi.
Max Verstappen took full advantage to earn himself his maiden title, and a near two-month absence for social media caused concern that the Briton may have been considering walking away.
Perhaps compounding these fears is the fact that the Silver Arrows have thus far failed to adapt to the new technical regulations, but Wolff maintains that his driver wants to stay and help the team recover from their slump.
“You can only walk away if you don’t like what you do any more but Lewis loves doing this,” he said, as quoted by The Sun.
“Lewis is in fantastic shape, his lifestyle is hugely disciplined and he has many, many years to go.
“And isn’t it a great challenge for him? He was at McLaren, then went to Mercedes when it wasn’t great and has won six titles. The team has got it wrong now, but he can be a part of the rise again.”
Several issues have been facing Mercedes in the early part of the year, not least the “porpoising” as a result of the all-new ground effect aerodynamics.
This has cost them straight line speed, and attempts to eradicate it have only led to a troublesome handling in the corners, so the Austrian has had his fair share of sleepless nights.
“I don’t sleep, and that is not because of jet lag,” he explained.
“I am not sleeping because I am beating myself up on how to get on top of these things. It is a miserable state of mind.”
However, he remains optimistic that the cohesive, exceptional units at Brackley and Brixworth that led them to eight straight constructors’ titles can come together, along with the driver pairing of Hamilton and George Russell, to turn their fortunes around.
“But you cannot be miserable. I have to look for solutions and I am trying to improve myself in order to extract more performance — and it’s the same for Lewis,” Wolff added.
“I see an upbeat Lewis when we start the day and then a downbeat Lewis when the session has gone worse than expected. I have had to stop thinking in terms of sessions and weekends, but about years.
“There will be years like this one where we have really bad weekends, but these weekends are necessary to learn.”
Russell has previously proclaimed that the Brackley squad are not out of the title conversation just yet, but Wolff perhaps sees this as an overly idealistic perspective.
“Are we going to fight for the world championships? My expectation from a pure mathematical stance is no, we are too slow,” he conceded.
“This needs to be a blip and not a long-term downward spiral. It will be a blip, and that is why we need to get it right now – not on the stopwatch, but mentally.”
After several reliability woes for Red Bull early on in 2022, Mercedes sit second in the Constructors’ Championship, 39 points behind Ferrari having walked away from the Australian Grand Prix as the highest scorers as a result of a P3 for Russell and fourth for Hamilton.