Lewis Hamilton was recently wondered, “Is it me, or is it the car?” This followed a tough final round in Abu Dhabi and a sequence of races where his teammate significantly out-qualified and out-raced him.
It wasn’t like that for most of the season, as the relative Formula 1 Drivers’ Championship finishing positions testify. However, he did not win a race.
To say this is a foreign experience for the seven-time F1 Champion is an understatement. According to my calculations, until 2022, Hamilton has won at least one race every season since 2003. That’s nineteen consecutive years of standing on the podium’s top step.
Rookie of the century
Lewis has been dominant in F1 from day one of his arrival. If we think Oscar Piastri’s rookie season was impressive, check out Hamilton’s. He arrived on the scene in 2007 in a blaze of glory, handing a former World Champion [Fernando Alonso] his backside and finishing second in the Championship.
Then, in the following year, he won it. With the greatest respect to Oscar, I don’t think he’ll be pulling that off in 2024.
Confidence is first and foremost
However, when a driver starts to feel they have lost the edge, lap times suffer. When they publicly express that doubt, alarm bells start to ring. A mix of characteristics makes for a successful F1 racing driver, and top of that list has to be “surety”; the unshakeable knowledge that you are the best, and that you can extract 100% from the car lap after lap.
This trumps talent, fitness, race craft, everything, and that’s why Max Verstappen is four-tenths faster a lap than Sergio Perez.
Heads, I win; Tails, you lose
For George Russell, every time he out-qualifies or finishes higher in the race than his teammate, it’s a psychological win. For Lewis, it’s a given, or should be.
The W14 may be a “stinker”, but it has recently smelled sweeter with Russell behind the wheel. Hamilton knows this; for someone who has always intimidated his teammate, it is new territory.