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Bahrain GP: Lewis Hamilton sees more Formula 1 titles in future for Mercedes beyond his time at team

"I know this team is going to win another championship," says Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes, who he starts his final season with in Bahrain this week ahead of Ferrari move; watch Bahrain GP live on Sky Sports F1 with practice under way on Thursday and SATURDAY's race at 3pm

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Lewis Hamilton admits it was a 'difficult winter' and that Ferrari's offer 'turned everything upside down'

Lewis Hamilton believes Mercedes will go on to win more F1 world championships as he made clear his decision to leave for Ferrari in 2025 did not reflect doubt about his current team's ability to get back to the front of the sport.

This week's Bahrain GP will see Hamilton start what will be the 12th and final season of a record-breaking partnership at Mercedes, with the seven-time champion having already said he wants to end his time at the team on a high.

Reflecting on his start to 2024 when what he has described as the "option" of joining Ferrari came up in the New Year, Hamilton in Wednesday's press conference said: "January, everything kind of turned up upside down when the option came and a lot of time alone trying to make sure you are doing your due diligence and you are making the right decision for yourself.

"I feel like I have made the right decision. I am excited, really excited. I am excited for this year.

"I know this team is going to win another championship and I will be proud to know I have been a part of it because a lot of the things we have put in place in terms of how much more diverse our team is, the processes that we go through, I will in a long haul always be a part of that process and that development the team has gone through.

"But I'm really looking forward to that new challenge.

"Lots of different emotions that you will experience through that challenge, but it's one I'm really excited about."

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There's plenty to look forward to on Sky Sports F1 as the start of the 2024 season edges closer

Mercedes dominated F1 from the introduction of the turbo-hybrid engines a decade ago, winning a record eight Constructors' Championships in a row and seven drivers' crowns in succession - six of which were achieved by Hamilton.

But the going has proved significantly tougher in first two years of F1's next huge regulation change with Red Bull sweeping all before them in 2022-2023 and again starting this new season as clear title favourites.

Hamilton added: "Regardless of whether or not this [2024 Mercedes] is a championship-winning car, that won't have any bearing about how I feel about the next stage of my career.

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With Lewis Hamilton having failed to win a race in the past two seasons, the team debate whether the Mercedes driver will this year. You can listen to the latest episode of the Sky Sports F1 Podcast now

"As I said, it's all about a new chapter in my life and I really feel like I've done everything I could possibly do with this team. I'm on the back end of my career, I love a challenge and this is the ultimate challenge really to go to a team that is incredibly iconic, has also an amazing history, but also has not had as much success as I guess they may have hoped in the past decade or so.

"They are already looking very strong this weekend, which is quite positive for them, and my goal is to beat them this year."

How will Mercedes start the season in Bahrain?

In an attempt to catch up with their rivals, Mercedes have made sizeable changes to their car and concept for 2024 and enjoyed a productive three-day test in Bahrain last week when both Hamilton and George Russell said the new W15 was nicer to drive than its two predecessors.

Ahead of this weekend's season-opening round, Mercedes remain realistic about their early-season prospects and Hamilton said the car remained very much a work in progress.

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Lewis Hamilton gives his thoughts, after being asked if George Russell could lead Mercedes from next season

"We still have some problems that we're having to work through and it's still not perfect, but it's definitely a better starting place from the past two years," he said.

"We are relatively happy in that respect.

"We are not where we want to be, we are not competing with the guys at the front, but we will work towards it."

With the paddock appearing in little doubt that Red Bull head in to Saturday's season-opening race with a pace advantage, most observers have placed Ferrari as the next quickest team.

Russell suspects Ferrari, who claimed five of last season's final nine pole positions, will start with at least a single-lap pace edge over Mercedes but says they have a decision to make over how they approach the Bahrain weekend with more still to learn about the all-new W15.

"In qualifying I think they will definitely be up there as you have seen over a number of years," said Russell. "Ferrari have always been really strong in qualifying. I don't know how many pole positions they had last year but I know they had a lot more than victories.

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Mercedes' technical director James Allison says he's pleased with the performance of the car so far after three days of testing in Bahrain

"They know themselves they need to try and improve the race pace. We made it clear after testing we are trying to improve our qualifying performance. Whether we will make that jump this weekend we are unsure but three days [of testing] was so little, we still feel like we have so much to learn about the car and there are many more tests that we'd like to do.

"And this is the decision that has to be made - do we go in trying to maximise the first race weekend or do we want to continue those test items off the back of what you've learnt as they may help you in the long run. So it's not an easy decision."

Sky Sports F1's live Bahrain GP schedule

Thursday February 29

  • 7.50am: F3 Practice
  • 9am: F2 Practice
  • 11am: Bahrain GP Practice One (session starts at 11.30am)
  • 12.55pm: F3 Qualifying
  • 1.40pm: F2 Qualifying
  • 2.35pm: Bahrain GP Practice Two (session starts at 3pm)
  • 4.15pm: The F1 Show

Friday March 1

  • 10.10am: F3 Sprint Race
  • 12.15pm: Bahrain GP Practice Three (session starts at 12.30pm)
  • 2.10pm: F2 Sprint Race
  • 3.10pm: Bahrain GP Qualifying build-up
  • 6pm: Ted's Qualifying Notebook

Saturday March 2

  • 8.55am: F3 Feature Race
  • 10.25am: F2 Feature Race
  • 1.30pm: Bahrain GP build-up: Grand Prix Saturday
  • 5pm: Bahrain GP reaction: Chequered Flag
  • 6pm: Ted's Notebook
  • 6.30pm: Bahrain GP highlights

Watch every round of the new season, starting with the Bahrain Grand Prix from Thursday February 29 to Saturday March 2. Stream every F1 race and more with a NOW Sports Month Membership

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