Lewis Hamilton says he is not carrying “any baggage” into the new season after the controversial end to last year’s championship fight.
The Mercedes driver begins his quest for a record eighth world title this weekend, as a report into last year’s Abu Dhabi race is set to be published.
He said: “I don’t hold any grudges. I don’t have any baggage going into the season. It is important to let go.
“All I can do is try and shape what’s ahead. I can’t change the past.”
Governing body the FIA is due to publish on Saturday its long-awaited report into the mistakes that were made in Abu Dhabi, when race director Michael Masi failed to apply the rules correctly in a late safety-car period and the destiny of the title shifted from Hamilton to Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.
Hamilton said he had met with new FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem on Thursday in Bahrain amid calls from a number of drivers for the report to be fully transparent about what happened.
“It is important that as a sport we are transparent and I had a good meeting with Mohammed last night,” Hamilton said. “He agreed that’s the direction we should take as a sport, so (I’m) looking forward to it coming out and for people to know the sport is transparent and we are learning from what happened in the past and are moving forwards.”
Hamilton’s title rival Max Verstappen said he did not see the need for a full report to be published but he said: “It’s good to discuss about happened in the year before. Right? You always analyse everything you do.
“So, yeah, we’ll find out and if there’s things that can be written down in an easier way, or a way to understand it better, the wording, then for sure.”
Problems expected for Mercedes
Hamilton and team-mate George Russell are expecting a difficult start to the season, admitting that their car is still far from its optimum as a result of problems adapting to the new wide-ranging regulations that have been introduced this year.
“We have learned a lot through the test and I am hoping that my guys have come with some sort of solution this weekend,” Hamilton said, “and I hope when I get into the car today it feels better. But we will still most likely have some of the problems we had last week.”
Russell added: “We are a little on the back foot at the moment as we are experiencing it worse than some of the teams but I have no doubt over time we will be able to solve it.”
Russell said he expected Mercedes to be “in the mix” but added: “You can see our problem on track. The guys are working day and night to try and find a solution, but it’s difficult.
“We will get there but whether this weekend or the weekend after I don’t know. Red Bull and Ferrari are our main rivals and they do seem pretty stable.
“The Red Bull looked flat as a pancake through the corners and the car looked really well balanced. They are looking really strong at the moment.”
Debate over Covid
Aston Martin driver Sebastian Vettel is missing this race after testing positive and will be replaced by reserve Nico Hulkenberg – a week after McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo missed testing with Covid-19. Ricciardo has now recovered.
Red Bull’s Sergio Perez has called for drivers to be able to race if they have Covid as long as safety precautions are taken, but Hamilton said it was important to continue to take precautions.
“There was no way I could have raced when I had it (at the end of 2020),” he said. “I was very sick. And even when I came back just on the tail end of it I barely made it through the race.
“It is still around us and we all need to take precautions, continue to wear masks and stay safe and keep each other safe.
“If we all stop wearing masks it will infect lots of people and some people get really sick and also as a sport in terms of the message we are sending people it is important to keep our masks.”
Human rights issues
Hamilton has also spoken out on human rights issues in Bahrain.
Ahmed Ramadhan, the 12-year-old son of death row inmate Mohamed Ramadhan, has sent Hamilton a drawing of his car and the driver has been urged to intervene in rights issues in Bahrain.
Hamilton said: “I haven’t seen the drawing but each year I receive letters from those that are suffering and all I can do is try my hardest to empathise with those who face these challenges and have these tragic stories to tell.
“The weight of change really needs to come and be put on the governments and those in power, and that’s why we have to continue to use the platforms we have when we arrive in these countries and make sure we are holding serious conversations about what is happening there.
“There are many organisations out there on the ground fighting for human rights and I support those, but there is a lot of work to do. The world is a mess. We see more displacement of refugees than ever before, not only Ukraine but Syria. It should be a responsibility for all of us to push for lasting change.”
He added that he had been “very moved” to see that prisoners had started to write his race number one their bed sheets as a result of his speaking out on human rights.
“It is a heavy and serious conversation in the background,” Hamilton said. “It is not an easy line to walk. It is risky, it’s challenging, it is difficult relationships.
“What’s important is seeing a better future for those people. We come to these beautiful places and there are challenges every where. No country is perfect, but we can all do more. I am just trying to do as much as I can in the time I have. I can’t do everything and I can’t do it alone. I need allies.”