In theory, Lewis Hamilton has won every third grand prix he has participated in. With seven World Championship titles, 103 Grand Prix victories, 103 pole positions and 59 fastest laps, the 37-year-old Englishman is the most successful Formula 1 driver in history. Sir Lewis has won at least one race every season since his debut in 2007. Also in 2009 and 2013, it was his toughest years to date.
The podium is as important as winning this season. Hamilton got the right goal early in the season. After that, he approached the third place in Australia. At the time, he did not want to imagine that difficult times would not be eliminated so quickly. At round five of the season in Miami, he let something like frustration and impatience shine between the lines for the first time: “We’re still racing, only the perspective has changed.”
Hamilton’s luck ran out
High winds are also blowing in the face of the record winner internally. George Russell offers him more resistance than Valtteri Bottas. In the qualifying duel, Hamilton is only 3:2 ahead. In terms of points, his countryman, who is 13 years his junior, leads by 59:36. In Miami, Russell outperformed his famous colleague twice. This is an insult to His Majesty.
Hamilton immediately complained about the strategy. He would either start with solid tires or use the safety car to change a second tire. One of them had as little meaning as the other. Whoever starts in sixth place has to howl with the wolves and do the same as those around them. A tire change during the safety car period would surely have put him behind Russell. And then he would have tires in the car that were definitely worse than those of his stable competitor. It wasn’t tactics that slowed Hamilton down, but the safety car.
From his point of view it was just bad luck. Not the first time this season. Russell also benefited from the Melbourne neutralization. In Jeddah, Hamilton was unable to use the VSC stage as he waited gingerly behind the slowly rolling Alonso, wasting six seconds and then missed the entrance to the pit. Luck was not on the former champion’s side at Imola either. After a bad stop, he got stuck in a DRS train unable to free himself.
Compared to the 2009 season
You can tell in each statement how Hamilton is experiencing the crisis. He’s repeatedly sworn to team cohesion and determination to find what’s wrong with the car, but is increasingly known to not believe in a quick fix. And that he finds it difficult to go to the weekend where fifth is the best possible result if there is nothing wrong with Red Bull and Ferrari.
Hamilton still raves: “A few bad races won’t discourage me. Every week at the factory I see how hard the guys are working to solve a problem. It inspires me. I have no doubt we can do it and that success will taste better. It’s a time when we’re learning a lot about ourselves as people and we will grow in it with the situation.”
But he also says, “We put a lot of effort into improving the car, but the gap is still the same as in the first race.” Hamilton is already comparing a Mercedes W13 to a McLaren MP4-24 from 2009. “2009 started out just as bad. McLaren read the new regulations in a way that cars lose 50 percent of their downforce. The standard. Then we were surprised by the cars that had a lot of downforce. “
At the time, it took McLaren six months to turn things around. Hamilton has a slight doubt that things will go faster this time: “This time we have achieved the goals we set for ourselves. In theory, the compressive force is correct. In fact, the rebound gets in the way, and this is not a problem we can talk about that can be solved at night.”
Many world champions crash
Hamilton’s bad luck is that he met a new teammate, who has a different perspective, which has not yet been spoiled by success, and who can create an alternative motive in a direct duel with the star. Any victory over Hamilton is a win for Russell, whether he is third or tenth. Russell secretly expected the GP to win, too, but his sense of entitlement is different from that of the man who shared the success. “We brought George from the bottom of the table into the midfield,” Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff quipped. For Hamilton, the opposite is true.
Hamilton isn’t the first world champion to crash because the car doesn’t go all the way. Jim Clark, Jackie Stewart, Emerson Fittipaldi, Niki Lauda, Nelson Beckett, Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna, Michael Schumacher, Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel have also influenced their success. Not everyone reacted the same way.
Jim Clark turned to jet set life after his most successful year in 1965 when Lotus lacked a competitive drive the following season. But the Scotsman did not complain. He and Lotus boss Colin Chapman was a tight-knit community. Clark believed in Chapman and his strokes of genius. In 1966, Clark was lucky enough to win the USA Grand Prix, and a year later he was already fighting for the title again.
Lauda scored goals outside of Formula 1
Jackie Stewart quietly endured the 1970 season with a special run that entered March. After all, he was fifth in the world championships with a win. And he knew his boss Ken Terrell was planning his 1971 Formula 1 project. Emerson Fittipaldi was plunged into failure. He joined his brother Wilson’s team in 1976 and disappeared into oblivion for five years until his retirement in Formula 1. His national pride was too great to return to a top team and give up his racing team.
Niki Lauda did not finish his second season with Brabham. He was in a similar situation to Hamilton today. The Brabham BT48 was fast but unreliable. And with Nelson Piquet, there was a guy like Russell in the other car. However, Lauda had a good reason for his escape. He rigged his airlines. He straightened things out by returning after three years. Lauda was still a winning driver.
As a three-time world champion, Pique experienced himself nine years later what it’s like when you suddenly have a car that you can no longer win. Switching to Lotus was a mistake. Pique responded to despair by working on the referee. He was already accused of resigning without knowing it. The Brazilian corrected that impression with a good 1990 season at Benetton. Pique finished third in the World Championships with two wins.
Proust replied with a year’s leave
Alain Prost did not want to face the prospect of a victory-free period. At the end of 1991 he provoked Ferrari with disrespectful statements about the car until he was fired. He declined an offer from Ligier. The professor preferred to take a year off and work on his comeback with Williams, which made him the world champion for the fourth time.
Ayrton Senna did not accept defeat either. 1992 was his worst season at McLaren. The Brazilian responded with lukewarm sprints and showed off the spoiled star when he realized Prost had slowed him down in the fight for the Williams cockpit. Furious at the missed opportunity, he said goodbye to winter without a clear statement on whether or not he would drive a McLaren next year. He even left the end of his career open.
Michael Schumacher had three stages in his career that shaped his character. And of all the fallen heroes, he probably handled the meltdown best. In 1996 he was driven by ambition to show everyone that one day you too can be world champion with a Ferrari. In 2005 he faced his team, who not only gambled away from the car but also agreed to a rule change banning changing tires, to the surprise of tire partner Bridgestone. Schumacher knew that the crisis would last for a year at most.
He certainly imagined the three years at Mercedes differently. One podium should be enough for the driver who was a seven-time world champion and 91st race winner. But Schumacher quickly realized that Mercedes was still far from winning and saw himself as one of the architects of the reconstruction work. Just like Ferrari did at the time. This time we just ran out of time.
Vettel with the same problem as Hamilton
Fernando Alonso did not have this patience. When Renault fell into oblivion in 2009, he jumped on to Ferrari. When Ferrari was unsuccessful in five years, he fell out with the team. With the move to McLaren, the Spaniard has gone from bad to worse. His tactic has been the same every time: If the car isn’t good, you put your advantages first. Alonso has also parted ways with McLaren and is trying again at Renault after a two-year hiatus. An amazing amount of patience. His ex-boyfriends say you don’t recognize Alonso.
After winning four world titles, Sebastian Vettel was first faced in 2014 with the fact that everything was not working out. His star George Russell was Daniel Ricciardo, who won three races with Red Bull and finished two places in the World Championships. Vettel faced the same thing again in 2019 and 2020 with Charles Leclerc at Ferrari. Bad car, young fellow, hungry and fast. New challenge Only Aston Martin kept Vettel in Formula 1. This is now proving to be a test of personality.
2022 is a crucial year for Hamilton. He has to show he can handle defeat. To be able to lead a team that was just as spoiled by success as himself. And he’s not throwing in the towel just because things are going badly. If he now summoned the world’s great conspiracy against himself, his image would be scratched. If he succeeds in it, he will be the greatest.