Lewis Hamilton faces a make or break 2025 … as the sport’s biggest star strives to cap an illustrious Formula One career with an eighth world title. bb

As his one-time mentor Ron Dennis starts the new year with the satisfaction of a knighthoodLewis Hamilton begins it wondering whether he can ever claim the prize he desires most: an eighth world title to cap the most illustrious career in Formula One history.

The sport’s factories are on their Christmas break. Nothing as yet is known about the speed of the teams’ relative steps forwards over the winter – a conundrum that will only reveal itself when pre-season testing starts in Bahrain.

What is clear, however, is that it is a big year for Lewis and Mercedes. He turns 39 on Sunday, so time is not on his side.

He has this year and another to run on a contract worth £50million per annum, so that is some consolation no matter what.

But, while the luxury of his salary is a comfort, it is not why he is in the game. It seems to me that two greater factors motivate him. First, righting the disappointment of missing out on championship success so controversially in Abu Dhabi on the last lap of the 2021 season, therefore scripting his own fairytale ending.

Lewis Hamilton will begin the year questioning whether he can achieve an eighth world title

Lewis Hamilton will begin the year questioning whether he can achieve an eighth world title

Hamilton has an extensive list of interest including fashion, music and the film industry

Hamilton has an extensive list of interest including fashion, music and the film industry

The Mercedes driver, who turns 39 on Sunday, can't easily walk away from his great calling

The Mercedes driver, who turns 39 on Sunday, can’t easily walk away from his great calling

The other is that, like many another sportsmen, he knows that nothing in the rest of his life can fulfil him as wholly as his own great calling, in his case as a Formula One driver of brilliance. He can’t easily walk away from it all, for all his interests in fashion, music and movies.

My hunch is that he may finish his stellar story of seven titles and 103 wins, a record, without the cherry on the cake.

Red Bull have cracked the code of the regulations brought in two years ago, and they will not let moss grow on their rolling stone.

All momentum is with world champion Max Verstappen and the Milton Keynes team, whose boss Christian Horner was himself recognised with a CBE in the New Year Honours.

It is rare indeed in Formula One to rediscover a winning recipe after a barren spell. Lean seasons after vaulting successes are often terminal.

I asked John Watson, among the best drivers never to have won the world title but who was victorious at the British Grand Prix, in 1981, no less, among four other triumphs, for his take on Hamilton’s prospects. He is a big admirer, though sometimes a kindly critic.

All momentum is with reigning world champion Max Verstappen and the Red Bull Racing team

All momentum is with reigning world champion Max Verstappen and the Red Bull Racing team

Speaking from Mallorca, where he is spending New Year, Watson said: ‘I believe Lewis still has the skills to win another world title. But it is a big year for him and Mercedes and (team principal) Toto Wolff.

‘If Lewis still has the same fire in his belly that Fernando (Alonso, 42 years old and driving superbly for Aston Martin), I see no reason why Lewis can’t go on to take an eighth title. But it depends on whether Mercedes can give him the car to do it.

‘I would love to see is him being given the platform to take on Max Verstappen. He is the only one who could challenge him given the right package. Then we would see how Max responds.’

But nobody knows for now. It is about boffins working away behind closed doors, holidays apart, trying to find the magic lottery numbers. Upon that hinges Hamilton’s quest for an eighth world title.

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