Sir Lewis Hamilton has not had the easiest start to the 2022 season, but is there really such a massive cause for concern?
Hamilton was out-raced for the fourth successive time by George Russell in Miami having also been out-performed all weekend in Imola, at the end of which the 24-year-old picked up a fourth-placed finish, while misfortune in the pit stops and an extreme difficult to overtake in Bologna saw the seven-time champion end the race P13.
He looked set to re-establish an element of control in the intra-team battle during the race in Florida, but Russell, having qualified down in 12th, took the Hards long into the latter stages of the race, and capitalised on a Safety Car to switch to fresh Mediums.
Hamilton did not have an ideal set of tyres to switch to having already pitted for Hards, so he was forced to stay out on old tyres, leaving Russell to pass him for fifth.
The Silver Arrows’ performance looked generally good in Miami compared to before, and the British pair finished the race within close proximity of each other, leaving a sense of optimism that they can start to build and head in the right direction.
They appeared to have a better understanding of “porpoising” and how to set the car up to mitigate it – the aerodynamic upgrades helped with that – but former NASCAR and IndyCar driver Danica Patrick was critical of Hamilton after the race.
“To me, he almost feels like the anchor to the team right now,” she said during Sky Sports’ coverage.
“Lewis is frustrated, doesn’t feel like they’ve made any progress. Toto [Wolff, Mercedes team principal] sounds very frustrated.
“I know they’re not doing what they’re used to doing but George sounded really collected and said they’ve got to stay the course.”
One of the key themes of last weekend was that of the jewellery debate after the FIA began a further clampdown on metallic artefacts and non-fireproof clothing.
In defiance, Hamilton wore noticeably more jewellery to the press conference, and vowed to “wear four watches” in the future after he wore three at the start of the weekend.
He told FIA president Mohammed ben Sulayem that the sport has “bigger fish to fry” at present, and did not understand why it has taken 17 years since the law was introduced for it to be enforced.
Dutch racing driver Tom Coronel indicated that Hamilton was “too preoccupied” with “nonsense,” and felt that the Briton should be more focused on “real racing.”
Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel also weighed in on the subject, suggesting that the 103-time race winner had been “targeted” by the governing body, and he wore underpants over his racing overalls to protest the fact that scrutineers now have the right to intimately search the drivers to check that their underwear is legal.
This is something former Formula 1 driver Ralf Schumacher described as “childish,” and told the pair that they should be setting a better example for young racers.
“The FIA is absolutely right – the young guys in Formula 4 and 3 should see that the F1 drivers stick to the rules. When the most experienced people like Vettel and Hamilton mock the FIA, I think it’s childish,” he explained.
Telegraph writer Oliver Brown indicated that the many fans, American and otherwise, who had come to the race to see Hamilton, will have left disappointed.
“So many had come to salute Hamilton (in Miami), the icon of this generation, only to see him mired in mediocrity once more,” he said.
“It is a question of when, not if, his patience finally snaps.”
Is this all a bit over the top?
Massively. Hamilton is a seven-time world champion for a reason; he has always possessed exquisite talent and unbridled ability to make a car work in even the most desperate of situations, and so many of his 103 wins have come through persistence and resilience.
Patently, he does not currently have the car to compete for race wins, and even the podium seems a push, but the Silver Arrows may have upgrades on the way for the Spanish Grand Prix which, while they are unlikely to turn things around overnight, can certainly give the German outfit a big boost.
The Briton rightly pointed out during the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix that a lot of the employees at Mercedes have been at the team through hardships as they toiled in the difficult BAR and Honda days, and even the four seasons between 2010 and 2013 when Mercedes began to reinstate themselves in F1 as a works team.
Let’s not forget too that the 2009 McLaren was a woeful car, at least towards the start of the season, but Hamilton managed to drag two wins out of it, before claiming another 11 in the V8 era with a combination of the Woking side and Mercedes. The rest, as they say, is history.
This is nothing new in F1. The very best teams in the history of the sport have gone through rough patches – Red Bull and Ferrari have vivid, recent memories of that, and they are now leading the pack.
Russell certainly seems to have adapted to the new technical regulations better than his team-mate, and his prior three years of racing towards the back at Williams might be working to his advantage too, asides from the fact that the young Briton is an astonishingly fast racer.
But to write Hamilton off at this juncture after all the magnificence he has achieved in his career would quite simply be bonkers, and the histrionics around his start to the 2022 will all look a little silly later on this year.