Lewis Hamilton believes McLaren could become championship contenders as a result of its switch to Renault power units in 2018.
McLaren opted to end its Honda contract after three seasons of struggle, initially chasing a Mercedes deal earlier this year before announcing it would be supplied by Renault from next year onward. While Hamilton is confident Mercedes will again provide him with a car capable of winning the drivers’ championship, he suggests his former team could make it a four-team battle for honors.
Asked when he felt he could win this year’s title, Hamilton replied: “When I arrived for the first race. That’s my mindset every season. I have that same mindset now for next year. When I’m training and preparing for a new season, I firmly believe that we can be contenders for the next championship. It may turn out to be not possible, but you have to have that mindset. If you go in with expectations of finishing fifth, it’s not going to work. You’ve got to gear yourself up to win.
“Next year, McLaren will have Renault engines, then we may see four teams fighting for the championship. I think Red Bull will be quicker and Ferrari for sure will be fast again. We can’t stand still – we have to keep moving forwards.”
Despite such a strong performance from himself throughout the year, Hamilton still sees plenty of room for improvement heading into next season.
“It’s been an amazing season but by no means a perfect one. There are always areas you can improve on. I won nine races and Valtteri [Bottas] won three, but there are 20 races, and a perfect season is when you win every single one of them. But it’s a positive thing, because it means you can always improve.
“It was definitely one of the strongest seasons we’ve ever had. The beginning of the season was a little bit up and down, but the second part of the season was very consistent. Reliability has been the best it has ever been. In terms of my performance, my starts were much better this year, and I was much more comfortable with this year’s car so that I was able to extract a lot more from it race by race.”