Former Mercedes motorsport vice president Norbert Haug does not believe that Sir Lewis Hamilton will lose motivation amid the Silver Arrows’ struggles in 2022.
The German team have made a dire start to the season amid the new technical regulations, and they have suffered with issues in various different aspects, not least “porpoising.”
The bouncing off the track surface is costing them time on the straights as well as affecting their handling in the corners, while tyre warmup has also been a proclivity, as evidenced by their difficulties in setting consistent lap times during the heavily disrupted qualifying for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.
Hamilton ended the race in P13 after being stuck in traffic for the majority of the afternoon, while George Russell claimed fourth place following an exceptional start and a magnificent performance after the pit crew accidentally neglected to adjust his front wing during the transition from intermediate to slick tyres.
It was put to Haug that Hamilton is beginning to lose interest, but Haug, who brought Mercedes back to F1 in 1993 and whose engine powered Hamilton’s 2008 championship victory with McLaren, emphasises that the Briton has faced no shortage of adversity in his career, and it always seems to galvanise him rather than demotivate him.
“I don’t think Lewis will lose interest,” he told Speed Week.
“He actually lost the title twice – once in 2007 which was a team mistake, and in 2021 through a wrong decision by the FIA.
“I’m not saying Verstappen doesn’t deserve the title, but Lewis’ driving performance equals world titles and now he is chasing the eighth. Of course he still wants to achieve that.”
However, the 37-year-old’s aptitude to win titles will naturally begin to fade as he gets older and the younger generation begins to surpass him – it is the cycle of life – and Haug acknowledges that young stars like Verstappen, Lando Norris and Charles Leclerc are gaining more momentum.
“So I’m not worried that Lewis could lose motivation. But we are experiencing a generational change in Formula 1,” he added.
“Not only by Verstappen, also by Russell, Norris, Leclerc – if he doesn’t often make mistakes like he did in Imola.”
Regarding Mercedes’ current ineffectiveness with the ground effect aerodynamics, the German notes that the ultra-skinny sidepods on the W13 are likely doing more harm than good.
Hamilton told the team that he was in a “really difficult position” regarding cooling when he was stuck behind Russell in Australia, and a similar issue will surely have occurred in Imola while he was sat behind Pierre Gasly for over 40 laps.
The adaptation of the sidepods made for a different cooling philosophy, and Haug believes that this has led to compromises on the underside of the car, which might not have been a problem under the previous regulations, but it certainly is one now.
“It looks very different from the competitors,” he explained.
“The cooling is in a completely different place, but the large area under the car, which is supposed to generate downforce, obviously cannot be used.”
The 69-year-old warned that Russell’s result in Italy was not representative of where the Mercedes actually is.
“Fourth place for Russell was great but the reality is probably more with where Hamilton is,” he said.
Former F1 driver Ralf Schumacher agrees that the 37-year-old is still one of the very best in the business, but warns that his adaptability to the new talent coming through is not going to be as sharp as it has been in years gone by.
“Hamilton is certainly still a top driver, but he has also certainly reached a part of his career where he is no longer willing to change his driving style,” he told Sky Germany.
“Russell is more open-minded because he knows what he has and is not trying to change the car. He just has to be at the limit with it and he can do that and I think Lewis has his difficulties with that.”
Hamilton sits seventh in the Drivers’ Standings after Norris’ podium finish in Bologna launched him into the top six.