Hamilton planning to avoid F1 rust and stay ahead of Leclerc & Verstappen

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Lewis Hamilton hopes to avoid ring rust when Formula 1 returns to action this summer.

The sport is currently having its longest break between races ever thanks to the coronavirus, with seven months due to split last year's finale in Abu Dhabi to the expected 2020 season opener in Austria on July 5.

Such a gap has already led Daniel Ricciardo to predict "chaos" when the racing does resume, but Hamilton, who is typically a slow-starter to a season, hopes to skip right into his mid-year prime.

"I do hope I'm going to come back better," he said in a Mercedes YouTube video. "We're probably going to get in the car and have Friday practice and we're all going to be as rusty as hell!

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"I've been on the phone with my team, speaking to Bono [race engineer Peter Bonnington] and speaking to [chief strategist] James [Vowles], and trying to discuss with them a plan.

"I probably will get in the simulator, which I don't always love, but utilising those tools to make sure that when we come to that first race, we hit the ground running and we're ready as if we've not missed any of the races.

"It's how can we arrive in Austria like we've already done eight races, that's going to be the real challenge. I don't know if we're going to be able to do it, but that's a good goal to have."

When the season gets underway, Hamilton will of course be vying to match Michael Schumacher as a seven-time F1 champion.

And recently, the Briton spoke of the pressure he puts on himself when asked by Italian publication Style to name his "toughest opponent".

“I have driven against some very talented drivers over the years and all come with their own challenges, but ultimately, I am competing with myself: I am my toughest critic," he said.

At the same time, Lewis is also facing a generational challenge from a pair of 22-year-olds in Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc.

But the 35-year-old veteran claims he will call on his 13 years of F1 experience to stay ahead.

“I think sometimes people confuse aggression with passion,” he said. “To be successful in this sport you have to be passionate when racing and have the mentality to push yourself to win.

“The younger generation will always want to challenge the older drivers and leave their mark, but when speed is the key contending with experience is never easy…”