Lewis Hamilton has said he is ready to extend his career beyond 2020 after giving his seal of approval to Formula One’s next-generation car.
On the eve of the Singapore Grand Prix, F1 provided a glimpse into the future after a concept of the machinery the sport hopes will inspire a new breed of fans was unveiled.
Ross Brawn, the English engineering mastermind who oversaw Michael Schumacher’s record seven championships at Benetton and Ferrari, is at the helm of F1’s technical body, and here at the Marina Bay Street Circuit, he led the presentation.
The 63-year-old, who returned to the sport following Liberty Media’s £6.4billion takeover last January, has promised to create beautiful cars, closer racing and fiercer competition.
One key feature of the proposed cars will be the increased diameter of the wheels, from 13 to 18 inches, in a bid to make it easier for drivers to race. The prototype is in its third stage of development, and, in conjunction with the FIA, the sport’s regulator, the drawings released on Friday are those of more than a year in the making.
Despite his recent championship triumphs Hamilton, 30 points clear of Sebastian Vettel, has been disappointed with the technical direction F1 has taken.
But the 33-year-old, using typically colourful language on his Instagram account, gave a resounding thumbs-up to the futuristic design he believes will convince him to keep racing beyond his next deal with Mercedes which expires shortly before his 36th birthday.
“This s*** looks dope af [as f***],” he said to his 7.2million followers. “I’m definitely going to be driving if the cars look like this.”
F1’s reveal on Friday was not without its hiccups. The design featured the old logo while Brawn admitted that the controversial Drag Reduction System – a boost button which helps with artificial overtaking – may remain in 2021. The team principal for Ferrari also revealed that he was less than impressed by the concept.
“I asked our engineers what they thought, and they said it was a bit underwhelming,” Maurizio Arrivabene said.
But Brawn, who has been in dialogue with all of the sport’s 10 teams over his plans, is confident he is making the right moves.
“One of the primary objectives has been to improve the racing of the cars, and how close they can get to each other without losing performance,” he said.
“The current cars can lose up to 50 per cent of their performance when they get to within one or two car lengths which means they struggle to race each other. We now have designs that lose only 20 per cent of their performance.”
He added: “The aesthetics are very important to us, and we want cars that young people will stick on their walls. It frustrates me when a car in a video game looks better than a car we have out on the track.
FP2 CLASSIFICATION (90/90 MINS)September 14, 2018
“I am optimistic that we are going to be able to produce great-looking cars, that can race much more effectively than they have done in the past.”
On track, Hamilton trailed Kimi Raikkonen in Friday’s final practice session by just 0.011 seconds. The slow-speed Marina Bay Street Circuit has been something of a bogey venue for Mercedes, but Hamilton will be encouraged by his pace.
The championship leader endured a heart-in-mouth moment when he nearly crashed into Vettel at the right-handed turn 14, before taking evasive action and running off the track.
For Vettel, he finished a distant ninth after banging into the barriers at the final chicane and sustaining damage to his car. He completed just 12 laps, the fewest of any driver, to leave him on the back foot heading into the remainder of the weekend.
- Press Association