Lewis Hamilton claimed a creditable P4 at the 2022 Formula One Azerbaijan GP. Yet at the end of the race, the Mercedes driver was seen to be almost unable to drag himself from the cockpit of the W13. Hamilton had complained during the race over the radio, “this is killing my back”.
Toto Wolff had suggested prior to the race start that his world champion driver was suffering from extreme bouncing and may not be physically capable of finishing the race.
In the end, as Lewis made progress through the field from his starting position of P7, the notion he would retire was never to become reality.
Hamilton told Sky after the race, “There were a lot of moments where I didn’t know if I was going to make it. One, whether I was going to keep the car on track as on the high speed I nearly lost it several times. The battle with the car was intense. And the last 10 laps…”
Mercedes have been leading a polemic that the FIA need to change the design regulations for some weeks now, often using the fresh faced Russell to suggest the new cars are unsustainable.
Yet the power to ease Lewis back problems lie solely with Brackley. They run their 2022 car lower to the ground than either Red Bull and Ferrari and the bouncing is caused by the car hitting the track time and time again. The team could opt to raise the ride height, but this would be at the cost of performance.
Being a street circuit, the surface in Baku is not as even as those at purpose built race circuits. The Mercedes didn’t look so bad or cause Lewis the same problems when last on a dedicated race circuit in Spain.
In less than 5 full days, the F1 drivers and teams will take to the circuit again in Montreal. The bad news for Mercedes and Lewis is the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is another street circuit with a bumpy track.
Such were the pictures of Lewis in agony in Parc Ferme in Baku, Toto Wolff was asked whether his star driver may not be able to take part next weekend in Canada.
The Austrian replied, “Yes, definitely”. So the solution could be to have someone on reserve who we have any way at every race to make sure that our cars run.”
In reality, this appears to be all part of Mercedes efforts to get the FIA to look again at changing the car design regulations – something they have previously refused to do.
The threat of Formula One’s latest great competitors not competing in Canada is presumably designed to force the FIA’s hand.
Hamilton will be in the car on Friday, if only to prevent the possibility that a reserve driver performs so well with the bouncing car, that it jeopardises Lewis’ return to the cockpit until Mercedes have sorted their issues out.