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Hamilton says he will win in F1 again but it could be some wait, uneasy return to Jeddah

Updated
Lewis Hamilton finished fifth in the season's first race in Bahrain
Lewis Hamilton finished fifth in the season's first race in BahrainReuters
Lewis Hamilton (38) has no doubt he will add to his record tally of 103 Formula One wins but cannot say how long he might have to wait.

The seven times world champion's last win was in Saudi Arabia in December 2021 and the Mercedes driver returned on Thursday with no great hope of success after a tough start to the season.

"I will win again," Hamilton assured reporters in Jeddah ahead of race two of 23 on the calendar.

"It's just going to take some time."

Hamilton finished fifth in Bahrain on March 5 with teammate George Russell (25) seventh while champions Red Bull won one-two with Max Verstappen (5) and Sergio Perez (33).

Mercedes had the fourth fastest car in Bahrain - beaten by Red Bull, Aston Martin's Fernando Alonso (41) and Ferrari's Carlos Sainz (28).

Hamilton said then that Mercedes were on the wrong track, and he had not been listened to, while team boss Toto Wolff agreed the car concept needed a rethink. Russell feared Red Bull could win every race.

Hamilton replied simply 'no' and 'yes' in Jeddah when asked whether he felt closer to the front than last year and whether the gap to Red Bull was greater.

"I think in the race they weren't pushing and so I think they are a lot quicker than they even seemed. We have it as them a second and a half faster in the race per lap. Something like that," he said.

"They will run away with it most likely this year unless Ferrari can stop them.

"At some point during the year, we're hopeful we might be able to close the gap but at that point, it will probably be too late in terms of fighting for a championship."

When Hamilton last won he was fighting to the wire with Verstappen - a battle that ended controversially in Abu Dhabi with Verstappen taking the title after race director Michael Masi changed the safety car procedure late on.

"In 2021 when we were here, we were hoping to be fighting for another world championship. You never know what's up ahead," said Hamilton.

"There will be things that happen in all of our lives that we least expect but it's not how you fall, it's how you get up. It's how you deal with it, it's how you show up.

"It's how you continue to remain positive and tackle the issues that you are faced with. That's where my energy is going into and what every single person in the team is focused on."

Hamilton indicates unease over return to Saudi Arabia

Lewis Hamilton distanced himself on Thursday from Formula One rivals who said they felt comfortable to be racing in Saudi Arabia this weekend.

The Briton, a seven-times world champion and Formula One's most successful driver, chose his words carefully but left little doubt about his stance.

Attending an official FIA news conference in Jeddah, drivers were asked how they felt about returning after last year's missile strikes by Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthis on an oil facility near the circuit.

Alpine's Esteban Ocon (26) and Aston Martin's Lance Stroll (24) said they trusted organisers to keep them safe, with the latter adding he felt the country was changing.

Red Bull's Perez said he was happy to be back.

Hamilton, who has spoken out previously on human rights issues, said his view was "more the opposite".

Asked to clarify, he said his position was "open to interpretation".

"I'm looking forward to getting in the car for sure," he added.

Asked whether that might be the car to the airport, Hamilton added: "No, I'm looking forward to driving the car here. The track is pretty awesome...so that part of my job I'm excited about."

The Mercedes driver last year expressed shock at mass executions, mentioning a letter to him from a youth facing the death penalty.

Asked if he had considered not racing in Saudi Arabia, Hamilton replied: "If I'm not here, Formula One will continue on without me.

"I still feel that as a sport going to places with human rights issues such as this one, the sport is duty bound to raise awareness and try to leave a positive impact. I feel like it needs to do more, what that is I don't have all the answers."

Human rights charity Reprieve said the mother of Abdullah al-Huwaiti, who faces a death sentence for crimes committed when he was a minor, had written to Hamilton asking him to mention her son while the world was watching.

Reprieve director Maya Foa said there had been at least 13 executions in Saudi Arabia in the past two weeks.

"Carrying out these executions on the eve of the Jeddah Grand Prix is a brazen display of impunity by the Saudi authorities, confident that the sport and its commercial partners will stay silent, and that the pageantry of F1 will distract from the bloodshed," she said in a statement.

Saudi Arabia denies accusations of human rights abuses and says it protects its national security through its laws.

Follow the Saudi Grand Prix on Flashscore.

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