Lewis Hamilton congratulates Max Verstappen, but vows Mercedes ‘will have better car’ next year

Jon Wilde
Lewis Hamilton shakes hands with race winner Max Verstappen in parc ferme. Canada June 2022

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton shakes hands with race winner Max Verstappen in parc ferme. Canada June 2022

Lewis Hamilton offered a cursory word of congratulations to Max Verstappen on retaining his Drivers’ title – and warned his rival Mercedes will have “a better car next year”.

Verstappen, who dethroned seven-time champion Hamilton in controversial circumstances at last year’s Abu Dhabi finale, wrapped up the 2022 crown with ease as he took his 12th win of the season at the Japanese Grand Prix.

A mistake by Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc at the final chicane incurred a five-second penalty that dropped him to third in the race classification and means Verstappen is 113 points ahead of his Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez with 112 available. Leclerc is a further point behind Perez.

Hamilton finished fifth at Suzuka and his 180 points for the season, in which Mercedes have not won a race with the troublesome W13 car, is less than half of Verstappen’s total.

However, the 37-year-old Briton is optimistic the Silver Arrows will return to form next year with the aim of posing a more sustained threat to Red Bull and Verstappen than Ferrari and Leclerc have done this term.

Asked by Sky F1 if Mercedes can give the Dutchman a tougher run for his money in 2023, Hamilton replied: “Well, congrats to Max.

“I think for us, we know what the problems are with this car. I believe as a team, we’ve not gone from being World Champions and being able to build a good car to not building a good car.

“I have no doubt we’ll have a better car next year. Whether or not we’ve rectified every issue we have this year, we’ll find out when we get there.”

Despite being tucked up behind Esteban Ocon, and unable to get past, for much of the 40 minutes or so of racing that was possible on a wet Suzuka track, Hamilton said he had still thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

The race was originally red-flagged after Carlos Sainz crashed on the opening lap and no further action had been possible for two hours as rain continued to fall.

“I don’t feel frustrated, it was a sprint race,” said Hamilton. “We were just so slow in a straight line. I was getting as close as I could [to Ocon].

“I wish it was a longer race. I’m glad we got some laps for the fans here, although it’s not really a massive race for them considering how long they waited.

“In terms of conditions, just restarting, I think it was awesome. That’s what motor racing is about. I had a blast. It was so tough, so hard to see.

“It’s really hard to see the cars skating around. I think the restart was perfect timing and I just wish we could have gone longer into a bit of the dark – we lost a little bit of the light.”

Read more: Race report – Max Verstappen crowned World Champion after winning chaotic Japan GP