When Lewis Hamilton was persuaded to leave his home at McLaren and join Mercedes in 2013, no one could have predicted how the single championship winner would go on to flourish. Hamilton outscored his team mate and established Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg during the final year when Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull dominated the end of the V8 engine era.
Lewis had almost claimed his first F1 drivers’ championship in his debut year, however the intra team bitter rivalry with Fernando Alonso saw McLaren drop the ball and allow Kimi Raikkonen to claim the title in 2007.
Lewis Hamilton outscored by Jenson Button
Hamilton of course secured his maiden title the following year in a last lap, last race duel with Felipe Massa, whose Ferrari team mistakes such as in Singapore probably cost the Red Team another championship as has been the case over many seasons.
Jenson Button and the Brawn team famously claimed the titles in the year of the double diffuser in 2009 and this was followed by Hamilton being joined at McLaren by Button as they races together for 3 seasons.
Button famously outscored Hamilton during their three seasons together before Lewis was persuaded by Ross Brawn and Nikki Lauda to quit his childhood team and join Mercedes.
Mercedes new V6 turbo hybrid dominates F1
The new V6 turbo hybrid era saw Mercedes build a dominant power unit and Rosberg and Hamilton were set to dominate the season. Rosberg was in there fight for the title until Hamilton set on a run from the Italian GP which saw him win 6 of the last 7 races of the year.
Speaking to motorsport.com, Mercedes trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin claims he’s watched the British driver evolve over the years he’s spent at Brackley.
“I’ve worked with Lewis now for a long time and he is a driver who has a really impressive feel for what the car is doing,” Shovlin reveals.
Lewis Hamilton needs the car ‘just right’
“If you can get the car where he needs it to be, we know far and well what he’s capable of.”
Hamilton clearly loved the cars Mercedes provided him with prior to the regulation changes in 2022 and the introduction of the new ‘ground effect’ car designs.
“Lewis, as a driver, puts an awful lot of effort into looking for where that edge is going to come from. That constant searching for how he can emerge into a new season as an even better driver than the one that we had before is just borne out of his love of winning,” says Shovlin
“He doesn’t want to be beaten. He’s very engaged with the engineering process now, he’s talking to all [engineering departments] – on the aerodynamics side, and vehicle dynamics side.
George Russell achieves a rare feat
This is evident given Lewis Hamilton has rarely been beaten by his team mate. Jenson Button banged it in their second year together at McLaren and famously Nico Rosberg achieved this in 2016 when he clinched the drivers’ F1 title.
George Russell managed this feat too during his first season at the Mercedes team in 2022, which was no mean feat given Hamilton’s history with the Brackley squad.
“He’s very familiar with all the people within the team and he knows where to go to ask questions and give feedback. Ultimately, it’s a problem that we’ll all solve together.”
Shovlin claims Lewis has developed over the years and better manages those around him to assist in his learning curve.
“I think the mechanism by which he is always looking to improve has always been there, the difference is he has realised how much more he can draw out of the team and the people around him to help that learning and that improvement phase.”
Russell beats Hamilton despite Mercedes being “Lewis’ team”
“And that’s the thing: he’s become more and more comfortable and settled within the team, and confident and happy to go and speak to different people about different areas. He’s just drawing more effectively on the resource.
Yet Lewis has a battle on his hands for 2023, given George Russell knows Mercedes will allow him to race Hamilton hard. Further the driver from Kings Lynn knows he has the beating of his 7 time world champion team mate who is less comfortable with the driving style required for the ground effect cars.
Shovlin reveals, “But, ultimately, if he finds an area that he thinks he’s not good enough at, he just solves it by hard work.
“The amount of work a driver has to do these days out of the car, the homework – understanding what the tyres are going to do, what do I need to be doing to manage them well, how am I going to get them at the right window in qualifying – that workload is much higher than it’s ever been.
If Russell beats Lewis again, questions will be asked
“And very often you’ll see Lewis as being one of the last drivers to, if not the last driver, to leave the paddock. He’s just going round and round, making sure he knows what it is he needs to do.”
Hamilton has a lot to prove in 2023 and his first target will be to beat his team mate. Were Russell to beat Hamilton again over the course of the season, then questions arise over Lewis’ ability to adapt and drive well a car that’s not perfect for his driving style.
As Shovlin says, “if you can get the car where he needs it to be, we know far and well what he’s capable of.”
Yet it could be Hamilton will continue to struggle with the ground effect cars and Mercedes will be unable to give him “what he needs”.
Further, Hamilton’s unusual desire to sign a contract extension early may indicate his lack of confidence he can nail the new generation of Formula One cars.
"Lewis likes to sing!" 🎶
There are two types of driver before a race….😅 pic.twitter.com/2qQi6P46pu
— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) January 17, 2023