Max Verstappen, who overtook seven-time champion Hamilton in questionable circumstances at last year’s Abu Dhabi finale, clinched the 2022 championship with a win at the Japanese Grand Prix, his 12th of the season.
A five-second penalty incurred by Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc at the final chicane dropped him to third in the race classification, putting Verstappen 113 points ahead of Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez, who has 112 points available. Leclerc trails Perez by one point.
Hamilton finished fifth at Suzuka, giving him 180 points for the season, despite the fact that Mercedes has yet to win a race with the problematic W13 car, which is less than half of Verstappen’s total.
However, the 37-year-old Briton believes the Silver Arrows will return to form next year, posing a more serious challenge to Red Bull and Verstappen than Ferrari and Leclerc have done this season.
When asked by Sky F1 whether Mercedes could give the Dutchman a run for his money in 2023, Hamilton responded:“Well, congrats to Max.
“I think for us, we know what the problems are with this car. I believe as a team, we’ve not gone from being World Champions and being able to build a good car to not being able to build a good car.
“I have no doubt we’ll have a better car next year. Whether or not we’ve rectified every issue we have this year, we’ll find out when we get there. “
Despite being stuck behind Esteban Ocon and unable to pass him for the majority of the 40 minutes or so of racing possible on a wet Suzuka track, Hamilton said he had thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
The race was initially red-flagged after Carlos Sainz crashed on the first lap, and no further action was possible for two hours as rain fell.
“I don’t feel frustrated, it was a sprint race,” said Hamilton. “We were just so slow in a straight line. I was getting as close as I could [to Ocon].
“I wish it was a longer race. I’m glad we got some laps for the fans here, although it’s not really a massive race for them considering how long they waited.
“In terms of conditions, just restarting, I think it was awesome. That’s what motor racing is about. I had a blast. It was so tough, so hard to see.
“It’s really hard to see the cars skating around. I think the restart was perfect timing and I just wish we could have gone longer into a bit of the dark – we lost a little bit of the light. “