February 14, 2024

‘Emotional’ Hamilton unveils Mercedes 2024 car

‘Emotional’ Hamilton unveils Mercedes 2024 car

A handout image released by Mercedes on February 14, shows the team’s British driver George Russell (2R), Team principal Toto Wolff (C), British driver Lewis Hamilton (2L), Technical Director James Allison (L) and Magaging Director of HPP, Hywel Thomas (R) posing with their new Mercedes-AMG F1 W15 E Performance Formula One racing car during their 2024 season launch, in Silverstone on February 14, 2024. (Photo by MERCEDES / AFP)

Lewis Hamilton admitted it felt “emotional” and “surreal” to take part in the final Formula One car launch of his Mercedes career on Wednesday.

Hamilton, a seven-time Formula One world champion, will leave Mercedes at the end of the 2024 season in a stunning switch to Ferrari.

The 39-year-old had signed a new two-year deal with Mercedes worth £100 million ($126 million) in August.

But Hamilton recently activated a break clause to seal his move to the Italian team after admitting the prospect of “driving in Ferrari red” was too hard to turn down.

Speaking at the Mercedes launch for the first time since his blockbuster move was confirmed, Hamilton said: “The last few weeks have obviously been emotional and it is very surreal to be here.

“The focus through the whole of winter training is getting the team back to where we once were.

“We have had these difficult couple of years which have been really grounding for us. It has helped us regroup and really look at things.”

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff, standing alongside Hamilton at the launch, added: “It has been a very busy winter. It will be our last season with Lewis so we are keen on bringing a quick car.”

Hamilton, who joined Mercedes from McLaren in 2013, won six of his record-equalling seven world championships with the Silver Arrows.

But the British driver has struggled to match Red Bull rival Max Verstappen since he missed out on what would have been a record eighth world championship in 2021 in controversial fashion.

His long goodbye to Mercedes made for an awkward final car launch at the team’s Northamptonshire base.

Hamilton answered just three questions from the Mercedes moderator during the brief nine-minute event.

“I came here in 2013 so 11 years with the team and now I am starting my 12th,” he said.

“It is such a privilege to work with a group of people where you see the work they do over the winter and you see a car come together at the beginning of the year and it is the most exciting part of the season.”

– ‘Found some clues’ –

Hamilton, without a win in two years, and team-mate George Russell, will get their first taste of this season’s Mercedes car during a shakedown test at rain-lashed Silverstone on Wednesday.

“We have to be diligent, maximise practice and even one lap, George and I might get in the rain today will give us a feeling of what is to come,” Hamilton said.

Last year marked Mercedes’ first winless campaign in a dozen years as they finished 413 points behind Red Bull.

Wolff hopes the revamped car can close the gap on the champions in the coming season.

“This is a complete relaunch of a car. It is very different, not only on the aerodynamic front, but mainly underneath,” he said.

“The most important thing is to look inward, and what is it that we got wrong? We found some clues, we tried to eliminate as many variables as we could, and the buzz in the company is something I have not seen for so many years.

“We know it is a big mountain to climb because if a team is so far ahead like Red Bull were last year that is not easy. But we have a superb driver combination and hopefully a fast car. There are some good ingredients to be back at the front again.”

The opening Grand Prix of the F1 season is set for Bahrain on March 2.