Lewis Hamilton is this season portraying what many F1 paddock reporters describe as a ‘relaxed’ image. Following his “they didn’t listen to me” rant at the Mercedes tech team for producing another F1 car incapable of challenging for titles, Lewis has a sanguine air about the way he conducts himself in the media pen.
Yet a more detailed examination of the British driver’s body language suggests an air of defeatism and dejection. Hamilton’s usual passionate cheer leader calls to the team to “keep pressing” post chequered flag over team radio now seem muted.
Hamilton’s downbeat explanation of setup difficulties
After so many years of driving a dominant car and racking up F1 records each season, Hamilton is now experiencing what the rest of the field felt, maybe with the exception of Nico Rosberg, during those times when whatever they tried it was rarely good enough to beat the Mercedes cars.
Lewis downbeat expectations before each Formula One weekend continue as he explains before the Canadian GP how his preparation differs completely to Max Verstappen’s and again its because the Mercedes W14 isn’t good enough.
“Once you get on top of the car and the car works in this window, and it’s consistent, it’s much easier to get it into that setup,” Lewis explained to Sky F1.
“When you are with a car like I have, for example, you’re trying everything, every different setup and combination to try and eke out a little bit more performance.
“But when you have performance in hand, you are not necessarily always having to make risky choices throughout practice in order to get that extra half a tenth.
Hamilton: Russell “got luck” on setup
Hamilton recently accused his team mate of ‘lucking’ into a setup for the race in Jeddah this season. Russell had out qualified Hamilton by four tenths at the Saudi Circuit and Lewis’ comments were seen as sour grapes.
Sky F1’s Craig Slater believed Hamilton was feeling the pressure and concerned he would again be beaten this year by team mate George Russell.
“This is a big subplot this year. Hamilton was outscored last year by Russell – that’s only happened twice before in his career, being outscored by a teammate.
Of course the other two occasions were when Lewis partnered Jenson Button at McLaren and in 2016 when Nico Rosberg beat him to the world title in the same Mercedes works team car.
Russell: “down to preparation”
Russell was quick to fight back at the next divers’ press conference in Australia.
“I don’t think there’s any luck in it at all,” he said. “I think it’s down to the preparation you put in before the event.
“The changes we made overnight, I knew that was going to be the right direction with the work we did with the team. And I believed it was going to be better than the setup that Lewis opted for.”
Since then Hamilton has retaken the points lead in the inter Mercedes driver battle now by 22 points following his P2 last time out in Barcelona.
Hamilton setup complaints continue
Yet Lewis explanation of how difficult his job is compared to Verstappen reads like a litany of woe.
“You don’t have to push the bodywork as tight as possible, put the engine on the rim of the temperature because you have a little bit of breathing space.”
“Then you don’t have to push the tyres as hard, so you can lift and coast a little bit more, which ultimately means longer stints. All these different things compound and the more you practice it, the easier it gets.
“But you still have a job to deliver, you still have to be focused and still can’t make mistakes, still have to make the right decisions and that comes with a lot of pressure.”
Hakkinen says Hamilton past his best
Having had the best equipment for years, clearly Hamilton felt less pressure when winning his titles than he does now racing amongst the mid field runners.
Mike Hakkinen claimed this week that Hamilton is clearly past his best.
“I know Lewis’ head is not 100 per cent in racing anymore. It’s completely normal.
“I always say that when people get older, the order of your thoughts change. Your priorities in life change.
Hamilton rode his luck in Spain
“Formula 1 just won’t be the most important thing anymore. It wouldn’t surprise me when the competition gets tougher and young drivers emerge, what George Russell is doing with Lewis at the moment, result-wise, it’s not an easy situation.
“Does Lewis have enough energy to wake up every morning, give his everything and bring results so that he can beat his team-mate? Is that the right future for him?” Questioned the Finnish double world champion.
Hamilton rode his luck in Spain and the eighteen points he scored for finishing behind Verstappen could easily have been none at all.
Blasting past Norris at the start, Hamilton went in hot to turns one and two and was forced to brake heavily mid corner. This cause Norris to clip his rear left tyre which could easily have caused a puncture.
Will Hamilton’s contract be ready for Canada?
Instead Lando’s front wing was fatally damaged and the British driver made it back to the pits for a new one, but was last and half a minute behind the field as he started lap two.
It will be interesting to see how Hamilton reacts should Russell close the gap and even get ahead of his team mate in the driver standings.
Further, what will Lewis’ new Mercedes contract reveal if it is completed as Toto Wolff hoped before the start of the Canadian Grad Prix weekend?
— Mercedes-AMG F1 News ✇ (@MercedesNewsUK) June 14, 2023