Australia Grand Prix will be telling as Lewis Hamilton’s dedication to F1 is in question

The issue for Romain Grosjean at American team Haas will be patience. The car has looked solid in pre-season testing. Nothing spectacular, but nothing awful either, Graham Caygill writes.

It seems odd to question someone's desire when they have won the past two Formula One drivers' world titles, winning 21 of the past 38 races.

But, that is exactly the situation facing Lewis Hamilton as he begins his quest for a fourth championship this weekend in Australia.

He finished last season on the backfoot, beaten in the final three races by Mercedes-GP teammate Nico Rosberg, in races that were admittedly dead rubbers after he had already wrapped up the title.

But, it did not help that he was late to one of the race weekends, in Brazil, after crashing a Pagani Zonda car in the streets of Monte Carlo late at night.

Plus, there are the regular shots of him appearing at celebrity events in the United States, and his burgeoning interest in music, with an album reportedly due to released later this year.

So, it is clear that there are more things to life than racing cars for Hamilton, and that is fine with Mercedes as he is an adult, who is entitled to live his life as he sees fit, as long as it does not interfere with the day job.

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These are not new interests and they were not a hindrance to Hamilton when he won 10 of the first 16 races last year.

But, the moment he started being regularly beaten by Rosberg, adding in the car crash for good measure, and the doubts on just how dedicated the 31 year is are raised.

How badly Hamilton still wants success is going to be an interesting narrative of the year ahead.

He made a big thing of wanting to match Ayrton Senna, his hero growing up, and the Brazilian’s three world titles.

That has been achieved, and he now has the opportunity to become only the fifth driver, after Michael Schumacher, Juan Manuel Fangio, Alain Prost and Sebastian Vettel to win four championships.

He has a great chance to do it too. The Mercedes has again looked very quick in testing. He knows he can beat Rosberg over a season, having done it twice already, and while Ferrari do looked to have closed the gap, they are still unlikely to be a match, on raw pace, for Mercedes, at least in the opening races.

But, does he still want it? The limp end to last season has opened doubts and that will be why Sunday’s 58-lap race in Melbourne will be so fascinating.

If Hamilton dominates he has reasserted his superiority, which could be bad news for F1, who are desperate in need of a shake-up at the front after last year’s one-sided title fight.

But, if Rosberg or Vettel in his Ferrari prevail over Hamilton in an equal fight, then the questions on whether Hamilton’s heart is still dedicated to F1 will grow even louder.

Romain Grosjean will have to be patient at Haas this season

The F1 grid is back upto 22 cars for this season with the arrival of American team Haas on the grid.

They have made all the right noises on making the move to F1, taking a year to set themselves up, linking up with Ferrari for their engine supply and initial technical support.

Plus, they have made astute driver signings with Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutierrez brought in.

Grosjean in particular was a great choice. He has matured considerably since his early days at Lotus, which were full of crashes and mistakes, and his willingness, as recently as November, to talk openly about how he used a psychologist to help him cut out the errors and become a better driver.

The issue for Grosjean at Haas will be patience. The car has looked solid in pre-season testing. Nothing spectacular, but nothing awful either.

However, reliability could be a problem, with much of their running being limited in testing due to mechanical problems, and that is likely to continue into the season as they look to iron out the teething issues.

Instant success in F1 is hard to come by, especially in the modern era of the sport.

Only Manor Racing, of the last three new teams to join F1 in 2010 still exist, and they have been through three ownership changes already, and barely survived to make last season’s grid, having spent more than three months in liquidation.

It may take a while, and may not be instantly obvious in Sunday’s race in Melbourne, but Haas do have the potential to establish themselves as a midfield team capable of regularly scoring points.

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