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F1: Lewis Hamilton will be a ‘force of nature’ this season, says Martin Brundle

Lewis Hamilton will return to Formula One like a ‘force of nature’ in 2022 says Martin Brundle – who urged the seven-time world champion to not ‘get angry – get even’ after the controversy in Abu Dhabi.

Mercedes star Hamilton was, in the eyes of many, robbed at the death when Max Verstappen clinched his maiden F1 world title in 2021 on the final lap of the season, in a huge slice of luck and flimsy portrayal of the rule-book regarding lapped cars and the safety car.

Yet with talk of protests in the past, and 2021 race director Michael Masi removed from his post, Hamilton is now fully focussed on targeting a record-breaking eighth Championship once again, starting in Bahrain this weekend.

Formula F1 driver and Sky Sports pundit Brundle has no doubts that the events of Abu Dhabi are but a distant memory for 37-year-old Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton will return to Formula One like a ‘force of nature’ in 2022, says Martin Brundle

Max Verstappen controversially clinched the 2021 title on the final lap of the entire season

Max Verstappen controversially clinched the 2021 title on the final lap of the entire season

Former driver and Sky Sports F1 expert Brundle acknowledges ‘mistakes’ were made on the day in the season finale, but has no doubts that it is but a distant memory for 37-year-old Hamilton.

‘It’s don’t get angry – get even!’, says Brundle, on a Zoom link from Sky Sports HQ in Osterley.

‘I can understand why he went on the missing list for a while on social media but I do think he’s back, he’s 37 years old but from what I saw of his driving last year, he was driving as well as I’ve ever seen him.

‘Clearly fitness is not an issue, the drivers don’t get so many big shunts these days with the knocks on the head. He is physically in great shape and I think he’ll be a force of nature when he comes back.’

Notably absent on social media for nearly two months following Abu Dhabi, the rumour-mill on Hamilton’s future went into overdrive.

Did Brundle – who will return regularly in 2022 with his famed pre-race Grid Walk for Sky – ever see Hamilton calling it a day, after a season finale firmly under the microscope? Not a jolt.

Hamilton returned to testing in Barcelona two weeks ago and was the quickest on the final day

Hamilton returned to testing in Barcelona two weeks ago and was the quickest on the final day

‘I didn’t buy into that at all.. what else is he going to do? Why would he walk away from Mercedes? It’s what he loves doing, it’s what he’s best at, he’s a massive contender for greatest of all time… Lewis was just regrouping.’

As for Verstappen, who led for so much of the season only to clinch his first crown in a last-gasp overtake, there will be no let-up having signed a £40m-a-year extension at Red Bull until 2028.

asked by sportsmail if the Dutch 24-year-old may tone down his aggressive mindset on the track, with Saudi Arabia last year in particular ‘over the top’, Brundle said: ‘I think his style is his style, the others are going to have to change their style around him.

‘If you listen to Esteban Ocon who raced against him in junior racing and others in karting, it’s clearly quite the MO (modus operandi) of MV of how he goes about his racing – he’s aggressive!

‘I don’t think there’s an asterisk against Max’s Championship. It was over 22 races, it was really unfortunate what happened in the end. It was really sad. It upset a lot of people, not just Lewis fans.

‘I think they should publish the report as to what happened. Mistakes were made on the day, but I don’t see malice.’

Brundle believes Red Bull star Verstappen's maiden title does not have an asterisk next to it

Brundle believes Red Bull star Verstappen’s maiden title does not have an asterisk next to it

Race director in 2021 Michael Masi was removed from his post after the Abu Dhabi controversy

Race director in 2021 Michael Masi was removed from his post after the Abu Dhabi controversy

One storyline set to play out this year will be Hamilton’s new team-mate George Russell, who moves from Williams to take the seat of Valtteri Bottas.

With new regulations giving renewed hope to the likes of Ferrari and McLaren – with Brit Lando Norris also having signed a new deal for the Brit-based team – Brundle acknowledges that the future of British drivers looks bright.

Firstly, on Russell, he states: ‘The pressure will be intense. For me, it’s like a bright light on a flower, intense heat on a flower. Some flowers flourish, some wilt and die.

‘I think George has got the confidence to handle it, he’s certainly got the talent and the feel and a gift behind the wheel of a racing car, I have no doubt about that.

‘I think the biggest challenge is turning up every weekend and being absolutely on it with you’re a-game. Because that’s what Lewis and the champions do, the championship contenders just keep turning up and delivering, that will be the hardest thing for him.

George Russell and Lando Norris are the bright up-and-coming British stars hoping to shine

George Russell and Lando Norris are the bright up-and-coming British stars hoping to shine

‘You can have a bit of an off weekend in a Williams at the back of the grid, you can’t in a Mercedes in the front of the grid.’

As for Norris, who is yet to win his first Grand Prix despite a few near-misses, Brundle is suitably impressed: ‘Lando’s the real deal. I see Lando has gone from boy to man in the last few years, on and off the track. He was sensational last year, he could easily have won three on the bounce with a twist of luck.

‘I’m a big fan of his. These kids are just great, exciting, personable, understand the value of media. They’ll stop to have a chat, they’re a pleasure and hope they stay like that.’

Following the final round of testing in Bahrain, the Gulf State hosts the season-opening Grand Prix this weekend, the first of a record-breaking 23 races.

Can the chasing pack challenge the duopoly of Mercedes and Red Bull, starting in Bahrain?

Can the chasing pack challenge the duopoly of Mercedes and Red Bull, starting in Bahrain?

Yet amid an eight-month journey, including 10 races in 13 weekends after the summer break, here comes the million-dollar question: can the chasing pack challenge the duopoly of Mercedes and Red Bull?

‘I do think not fighting for the World Championship last year has probably helped Ferrari and McLaren,’ Brundle says, with an optimistic tone.

‘We’re going to see a dramatic rate of change and we might see a few surprises in there. You’ve got to put your money on the usual suspects to get it right first, then the other smaller teams.

‘The history of F1 suggests regulation changes tightens the pack, doesn’t mean we won’t get great racing in at the front.’

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