Former team-mate: If anyone can turn Mercedes around, it’s Lewis Hamilton
Heikki Kovalainen has backed Lewis Hamilton to turn Mercedes’ fortunes around, the former F1 driver adamant the Briton isn’t going anywhere next season.
Following a lacklustre Bahrain Grand Prix with Hamilton crossing the line in fifth place, over 50s down on the race winner, speculation about his future and whether he wants to continue plugging away with Mercedes ramped up.
There has been suggestion that the seven-time World Champion could turn to Ferrari to seek his eighth World title while others believe he could just call it quits.
Kovalainen doesn’t see either of those happening.
The former McLaren driver, Hamilton’s team-mate for two seasons in 2008 and 2009, believes the driver is as motivated as ever before especially as now he’s the challenge of turning a struggling Mercedes team into race winners.
“Personally, I don’t see that coming – to me, he’s committed to Mercedes,” the Finn told Mirror Sport.
“I met him in Hungary last year and we had a good chat there. Without going into detail of what was said in a private conversation, the body language and the feel I got from him, I just felt that this is something that he wants to turn around.
“He wants to turn things around for Mercedes and that’s going to tick another box on his resume – to show that it’s not that he’s only been driving good cars and making the most of the good cars, but that he can actually turn a struggling team around and lead that team.
“That’s the reason why I’m thinking he’s not going to change.
“I feel he wants to turn this thing around with Mercedes and then he can show the world that he can turn a struggling team into a winning team again.
“It’s going to be exciting to watch and I one hundred percent believe he has the skill and the will.
“If anyone, he can probably do it.”
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Although there’s been a lot of speculation about Hamilton’s future, the 38-year-old has always maintained he’s not quitting Mercedes and that he’s up for the challenge.
He reiterated that in the build-up to the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.
“I still have 100% belief in this team, and they’re my family and I’ve been here a long time,” he said, “so I don’t plan on going anywhere else.”
As for his criticism after Bahrain in which he accused the team of not listening to him, he explained: “In hindsight, I think looking back [it] wasn’t necessarily the best choice of words.
“Of course, there are times where you’re not in agreement with certain team members, but what’s important is that we continue to communicate, we continue to pull together.”
He added: “We’ve seen the proof is in the pudding, we’ve seen where the performance is and how people are extracting the performance, and we’ve got to now start making some bold decisions, some big moves in order to close the gap to these guys.”