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Lewis Hamilton relishing fresh Max Verstappen battle as Brit promises to reach new heights

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Lewis Hamilton has sent out a defiant message to Max Verstappen and his Formula One rivals, telling them the best is yet to come from the seven-time world champion. Hamilton was said to be on the brink of quitting after being robbed of a record-breaking eighth crown in the final race of last season at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

But after deciding to carry on for a 10th season in the Mercedes car, Hamilton declared: “If you think that what you saw of me at the end of last year was my best, wait till you see this year.

“I am putting every ounce of my energy and time into making sure that I’m the best you have ever seen.”

Hamilton, speaking at the launch of this year’s Mercedes car, said he has never been as motivated during his 15-year Grand Prix career.

He said: “I feel great, I feel fit and I feel that through these sort of experiences, you can turn emotion into strength, into power and that is what I am doing. I am putting that into my training, I am putting that into my work.”

Hamilton, who starts his challenge in Bahrain next month, admits he still finds it “difficult to understand” what happened in Abu Dhabi but is using it as inspiration for his 2022 campaign.

He went on: “I took time to digest what had happened, which is still difficult to fully understand. But what does not kill you, makes you stronger.”

After the heartbreak and injustice of Abu Dhabi, Hamilton surrounded himself with his nearest and dearest and wondered whether he could go through it all again.

In the most controversial fashion, he had been robbed of a record-breaking eighth F1 world title and final confirmation of his status as the ‘Greatest Of All Time’ had been cruelly denied.

During his two months away from the spotlight, Hamilton turned 37 and had to decide if he still had the desire and the motivation to fight one more time.

But more crucially, he had to decide if he could ever regain trust in a sport that let him down.

His boss, Toto Wolff, might say he never had any serious fears his driver would quit but it is clear Hamilton’s disillusionment with F1 after the Abu Dhabi scandal ran deep.

Hamilton said: “Ultimately, in a sport that I have loved my whole life, there was a moment when I lost a little bit of faith.”

Hamilton will still not watch the events in Abu Dhabi when he was heading for championship number eight until race director Michael Masi – under pressure from Red Bull boss Christian Horner – allowed some cars to unlap themselves and give Max Verstappen, on fresher tyres, a last-lap title-winning run at the Mercedes driver.

“I have thought about retiring lots of times,” he laughs. “Ah, no I haven’t… but at the end of a season, the question is whether you are willing to commit the time and the effort it takes to be a world champion.

“A lot of people underestimate what it takes to be a world champion – it is not just turning up and driving the car. The question is do you want to sacrifice the time? Do you believe you can continue to punch at the weight you are punching?

“That’s a normal mental process but this one was compounded by a significant factor.”

But despite that significant factor, Hamilton is redoubling his efforts and believes he will be even better than last year when he won three out of the final four races.

Only the infamous call by Masi stopped him winning all four and, on Thursday, the Australian was removed from his position as F1 race director as part of changes implemented after an FIA review into the happenings in Abu Dhabi.

And Hamilton welcomed the changes, making it clear he considered himself the victim of serious wrong-doing.

He says: “It is good to see the FIA are taking steps to make improvements. Accountability is the key and we have to make sure this never happens to anybody else in this sport ever again.

“Trust can be lost in the blink of an eye or with the flick of a finger. To earn trust is something that’s built up over a long time.”

And despite everything, Hamilton still has enough trust to carry on and is looking forward to another epic duel with Verstappen.

“It had nothing to do with Max and Max did everything a driver would do given the opportunity he was given,” says Hamilton. “He’s a great competitor and we will go into another battle like we did last year.

“And I feel fresh, I feel strong, I don’t dwell on the past and I’m only looking forward.”



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Ruud van Nistelrooy makes next job decision as Man Utd plan coaching appointment

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That decision failed to pay off, however, with the Red Devils sacking Moyes after just 10 months in charge.

After the current West Ham boss came Van Gaal, who arrived with big things expected due to his past success at the likes of Barcelona and Ajax.

Giggs was hoping to get the Red Devils job himself, which was why he stayed, but both ended up leaving nearly six years ago.

When Jose Mourinho took over, he opted to maintain his close relationship with Rui Faria – who had previously worked under him at clubs such as Real Madrid and Chelsea.

Fair departed in the summer of 2018, though, with Michael Carrick then given a place on Mourinho’s bench.

Carrick stayed to work under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, with the Norwegian also regularly picking up the thoughts of Phelan and Kieran McKenna throughout his spell in the dugout.

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