Mercedes are in the unfamiliar role of playing catch-up this season, forcing the once perennial Formula 1 World Champions to take a step back so as to move forward revealed Lewis Hamilton while hailing the “amazing car” and job well done by “every single individual” at Red Bull this season.
Hamilton has made it clear that he intends to be part of that future for a long time to come, but the task at hand is getting the mighty Merc back to where they were accustomed to for the best part of last decade.
The seven-time F1 World Champion is enduring his worst season in the top flight since his debut back in 2007 with McLaren. Since then he has amassed an incredible 103 Grand Prix victories and, notably, he won a race in every season he has contested. But that unique streak could come to an end this year as the Mercedes W13 does not look like a winning car.
Stunted at birth with a radical design that unfortunately backfired, often stumping the team as they clearly had little idea what car would turn up at a race weekend, the bad one, the not-so-bad one or the OK one. Never a good one like its predecessors which, between the eight of them, won 115 races, 82 times with Hamilton at the wheel.
That the 37-year-old Briton is an F1 living legend is beyond dispute, consider that if current and double F1 World Champion Max Verstappen, on 32 GP victories, won every race from now on, it will still take the Red Bull driver three seasons to close the gap.
Mercedes have a comeback plan of course
Regarding his team’s rapid fall from serial winners to best of the rest behind red Bull and ferrari in the pecking order, Hamilton revealed in an interview on Sky F1: “We’ve had to take a step back and switch gears and go in a different direction.
“From being [in F1] for such a long time, knowing how long it takes to change things, knowing how long the processes are, the decisions have to be actioned months in advance of the direction that you’re going.
“You’re continuously collating data and getting different bits of information that can alter those along the way. One thing is that I have 1,000 per cent confidence in my team. I would say just with how the rules are, I know it can be tough for everybody.
“Everyone is going to have to dig even deeper during these next six months, and it’s not going to be easy, but I feel like everyone’s up to the challenge, up to the task.”
Verstappen dominated the 2022 F1 season, already crowned Champion (a second time) in Japan last time out, this year the Red Bull ace benefitted from Adrian Newey’s design team that produced a fabulous car in the RB18, winner of 14 of the 18 races so far this season, 12 times Verstappen stood on the top step of the podium for RBR, teammate Sergio Perez winning twice in the sister car.
Hamilton knows how strong Verstappen’s package was throughout this season: “If you look at Red Bull, they’ve got a car that’s amazing. They’ve done an incredible job this year as a whole, every single individual there. So, their car will probably just continue to evolve, as probably will Ferrari’s, although they’ve got some teething problems.
“Whereas we’ve had to take a step back and switch gears and go in a different direction and hope that we’re on that right path to be able to get back engaged,” lamented the Champ.
Apart from wrapping up F1 titles at COTA in the past, Hamilton has also won at the venue in Texas five times in the nine years the venue has been on the calendar, no other driver has won it more than once.
However, this year a podium will be a tough ask for Mercedes, let alone a win but not from a lack of trying explained Hamilton: “We’ve learnt so much through the data, I’ve tested everything on the car, I’ve tested every setting that you can possibly test on the car 100 times, and I’ve paid the price for it through the first half of the season.
“But for me that was about gaining knowledge for the team so they could literally tick off the box and say that does or doesn’t work. I felt like that was really my role. Yes, I’m behind in points, but it’s the bigger picture. I hope that that work will impact us better for not only the remaining races this year.
“But into next year, in terms of where we steer, because I’m a part of that rudder, in terms of steering us in the direction. I hope so much that we can fight back next year, and we just have to speak it, and work it, into existence,” added Hamilton.
Heading to Austin, his teammate George Russell, in the other Silver Arrows, lies fourth in the 2022 F1 drivers’ standings, with four rounds to go, 27 points ahead of Hamilton who is sixth; as mentioned Verstappen is already this season’s World Champion.