Hamilton relishes F1 challenge from young crop of drivers
SAO PAULO (AP) — Five-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton has a two-step plan for keeping the new generation of talented drivers behind him next season: match their youthful hunger and outwit them with the experience that comes with age.
The 33-year-old Hamilton wrapped up this year’s title at the Mexican Grand Prix two weeks ago and is already looking forward to the renewed challenge he will face in 2019 from a crop of young drivers who will only get better.
Hamilton, who became the youngest F1 champion when he won his first title at the age of 23 in 2008, says he sees a bit of himself in 21-year-old Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc and Red Bull’s 22-year-old Pierre Gasly.
“These are two young rising stars that are already showing incredible potential,” Hamilton said after he arrived in Sao Paulo for this weekend’s Brazilian Grand Prix.
He later added 21-year-old Red Bull driver Max Verstappen to the shortlist as well.
“I welcome the competition,” he said. “Naturally I do see a little bit of myself in them. At their age I had the same kind of eye of the tiger. Now it is a little different for me, I am one of the older drivers. But I feel like I still have that hunger they are coming in with.”
Hamilton also has the experience of spending a decade at the pinnacle of the sport, and he thinks that could help him stay at the top for a bit longer.
“Perhaps there are things that I will be able to bring to the table and that they won’t,” he said.
Interlagos will host the penultimate race of the F1 season this weekend. Hamilton called the Brazilian track “one of the trickiest of the season” and “an Achilles heel.”
Hamilton won the Brazilian race in 2016 and lifted his first F1 title in Sao Paulo 10 years ago, finishing fourth after a dramatic overtake on the last lap.
“The first year here was quite difficult, but it has been improving over time,” he said.
While Hamilton has already clinched the individual title, his Mercedes team is still fighting with Ferrari for the constructor’s championship — meaning the Briton will not be able to relax just yet.
“We still have two races to go and a championship at stake,” he said.