Why Lewis Hamilton ‘cannot afford to back off’ in final Mercedes season

Henry Valantine
Lewis Hamilton walks with future Ferrari team-mate Charles Leclerc.

Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc will be Ferrari team-mates in 2025.

Damon Hill has said Lewis Hamilton “cannot afford to back off too much” in his final year at Mercedes, with a big challenge awaiting him at Ferrari next season.

Hamilton has started his 12th and final year with Mercedes and the seven-time World Champion has insisted his full focus remains on finishing his stint with the Silver Arrows on a high, but 1996 World Champion Hill explained that he cannot allow himself to switch off as his career reaches its later stages.

Damon Hill: Lewis Hamilton ‘cannot afford to back off too much’ in final Mercedes year

Having won six of his seven titles to date with his current team, Hamilton took the decision back in January to make the move to Ferrari and team up with Charles Leclerc from 2025 on a multi-year contract.

He’ll join fellow multiple World Champion Fernando Alonso in racing past his 40th birthday as a result, and Hill explained that Hamilton may not be able to ‘turn on’ his natural talent and speed at will as his age advances.

To combat that, he feels that he needs to lay the groundwork to leave the team and carry “a spring in his step” to the Scuderia next season, having tended to gradually build into a campaign as it progresses throughout his career.

“Do you remember when he’d sewn up the championship [in 2015], beat Nico [Rosberg], and then Nico won the next three races and then won the championship the following year? You know, you cannot afford to back off too much,” Hill said of Hamilton on the F1 Nation podcast.

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“I think, Lewis has got an abundance of talent, he could probably turn it on whenever he wants to, it’ll always be there – but it won’t. That’s the problem, it won’t always be there, because he’s getting on a bit.

“And so, there is an element of, I hope, he doesn’t slack off too much this year. He needs to really, this year, establish everything about him and if there’s opportunities – and I know he’ll do it – but he needs to not get outqualified by George every race, he needs to get up there and get the best results for Mercedes and then leave with a spring in his step, so that the challenge is still there.

“He might have been coming here [to Bahrain] quite relaxed, but he does tend to start a season quite relaxed, and then he just turns it up, after the summer break he comes back a little bit more angry, and the poor old team-mates get ground into the dirt. So we’ll see.”

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