Formula 1 winner-turned commentator John Watson had sound advice for Lewis Hamilton after he suffered through back injury on his way to fourth place in Baku on Sunday, warning the fellow Briton to work on his fitness.
Throughout the 2022 Azerbaijan Grand Prix weekend, it was evident that Mercedes were suffering more than most with the effects of porpoising After the race, in parc ferme, Hamilton made it plain for all to see that he was in grave pain as he alighted from his awful Mercedes W13.
He was voted Driver of the Day for his efforts, but it was clear that something was amiss with Lewis as he walked away from his car, severe backache it turned out to be.
Watson, a five-time Grand Prix winner, told Sportsmail: “Lewis needs to be careful not to act like a pantomime dame. It is a very difficult car to drive but at 37 the bones are not as forgiving of an uncomfortable ride.
“This is a whole new world to Lewis. He has had seven or so years when Mercedes have been dominant and it’s perhaps like a seven-year itch. George looked pretty fresh afterwards and finished third to Lewis’s fourth.
“Lewis maybe needs to recalibrate and spend less time in the air and more in the gym,” was Watson’s advice to Hamilton.
Wolff: Lewis we all know this is a bit of a shitbox to drive and sorry for the back
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff tried to comfort his driver after the race, in which Hamilton chased teammate George Russell who got on with the job to finish a fine third; again beating his teammate and making it a run of an extraordinary (driving the same car as Lewis) eight top-five finishes in a row since he was promoted at the start of this season.
During the race Hamilton came on the radio just before mid-race: “Argh, my back is killing me, man.” Then the visibly painful exit from his car in parc ferme, prompted speculation he might miss this weekend in Canada. But this of course won’t happen he will be there.
The ‘will he or won’t he be Montreal’ for the Canadian Grand Prix on Sunday was allowed to simmer on, Nyck de Vries on high alert to sub until the seven-time F1 World Champion surfaced on social media on Monday.
He reported on social media: “It was tough and I had some trouble sleeping but I’ve woken up feeling positive today. My back is a little sore and bruised but nothing serious, thankfully.
“I’ve had acupuncture and physio and I am on the way to my team to work with them on improving. There’s no time like the present to pull together, and we will. I’ll be there this weekend. I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” insisted Hamilton who won his first F1 race in Montreal back in 2007, 15 years ago.
Hamilton can get inspiration from fellow veteran Alonso
While Watson’s “work on your fitness” suggestion may seem harsh, that’s the reality facing the 37-year-old, 103-time Grand Prix winner; with wingman, Valtteri Bottas despatched to Alfa Romeo, Russell at 24 has stepped up to become the benchmark of the new era F1 drivers; with a winning car, he is on Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc level.
Ahead of Round 9 in Canada this weekend, Russell is fourth in the 2022 F1 championship standings, 37 points ahead of Hamilton in sixth. The younger driver has come to grips with the new generation cars far more rapidly and effectively than the older driver.
But it is not all gloom and doom for Hamilton if he is to see out his contract with Mercedes until the end of 2023, he can grab inspiration from Fernando Alonso who is making highly rated Esteban Ocon look ordinary at Alpine; the supremely fit 40-year-old Spaniard driving as well as ever, according to nonetheless than himself.
The same cannot be said of Hamilton. We have seen better versions of the great driver such as he was last year in those final four races, however, if he is the one mainly afflicted by the porpoising issue, perhaps he will be wise to Watson’s words: “Fewer air-miles and a lot more time in the gym, Champ.”