RACE DEBRIEF

    Lewis Hamilton has conceded to sometimes wondering if he “still has it” amid Mercedes’ relative F1 struggles after ending a second successive season without a Grand Prix victory to his name.

    Hamilton and Mercedes combined to devastating effect when the sport’s turbo-hybrid era began in 2014, with the driver going on to rack up six world titles in seven years to add to the crown he previously achieved at McLaren and the Silver Arrows winning eight championships on the bounce.

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    However, after being dethroned by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in a hotly-contested 2021 campaign, Hamilton has been unable to mount another title challenge as Mercedes battle to produce a winning car to F1’s latest ground effect ruleset.

    Debuting back in 2007, Hamilton had not gone a season without winning a race until 2022, and the now 38-year-old admitted in a wide-ranging interview with BBC Sport that the challenges faced raised some questions in his mind.

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    Although he missed out on a win in 2023, Hamilton still made the podium six times

    “Ultimately, when you have difficult seasons like this, there are always going to be moments when you’re like, ‘Is it me, or is it the car? Do you still have it? Has it gone?’” Hamilton commented.

    “Because you’re missing that, you know... When the magic happens, when everything comes together, the car and you, and that spark, it’s extraordinary. And that’s what you’re in the search for.”

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    He added: “I’m only human. If anyone in the world tells you they don’t have those things, they’re in denial. We’re all human beings.”

    Despite those concerns, Hamilton ended the season third in the drivers’ standings behind Red Bull pair Verstappen and Sergio Perez, with team mate George Russell 59 points back in eighth.

    Hamilton declared himself pleased with his own performances on race days, but feels there is work to do in qualifying going forward, with the Mercedes drivers finishing level in terms of their one-lap head-to-heads.

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    “Most of my race performances have been really good,” Hamilton said. “So that, I am happy with – building back up to the level I should be.

    “Qualifying is still an area that needs to be improved. We struggle as a team getting the performance out of these tyres.

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    “You’ll notice there was one weekend where George would be massively off and I’d be OK, and then it switched the other way. And those are down to small details with the car.”

    Hamilton remains the most successful driver in F1 history with his aforementioned seven world titles, 103 race wins, 104 pole positions, 197 podium finishes and more than 4,600 points.