The Singapore Grand Prix summed up how frustrating 2022 has been for Mercedes, after what looked set to be a promising weekend turned into yet further disappointment.
Whilst little was expected from George Russell during the race due to a pitlane start (new power unit fitted after qualifying), there was a sense of anticipation that Sir Lewis Hamilton could win the demanding race after qualifying on the second row.
Hamilton made a lacklustre start to the race following wheelspin off the line, which allowed Carlos Sainz to snatch third from the Brit instantly.
The seven-time World Champion quickly settled into the race behind the Ferrari driver, but failed to find a way past.
Things got dramatically worse for Hamilton on Lap 33, after the Mercedes driver pushed too hard into Turn Seven and crashed into the tyre wall on the exit of the corner.
The resulting direct impact broke the Briton’s front-wing, resulting in a necessary pit-stop for a new nose and tyres.
After a race spent on the verge of a podium, Hamilton re-emerged onto the circuit behind Sebastian Vettel in ninth, where he ultimately finished the race.
Hamilton apologised to his team for the pure driving error, as Mercedes slipped to 69 points behind Ferrari in the battle for second in the Constructors’ Championship.
The incident came at a time when the 37-year-old is a hot topic in the media, as questions are once again being asked as to whether he will remain at the Germans beyond his current contract.
His deal is set to expire at the end of 2023; however, before the summer break the Mercedes driver expressed his intent on sitting down at “some stage” to discuss a contract extension.
“I’m sure we’ll sit down at some stage and talk about the future,” Hamilton said before F1’s August summer break.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff was asked by Channel 4 about what the future holds for Hamilton and Mercedes, with the Austrian certain that a contract extension is “going to happen”, with the Brit admitting he could race for “another five years”.
“The advantage is we speak a lot together [both live near each other in Monaco],” Wolff told Channel 4.
“Just last week we sat down and he says ‘look, I have another five years in me, how do you see that?’” Wolff added, suggesting the Brit will continue until at least 2028.
“Over time we have just grown together. We are totally transparent with each other. Lewis will be the first one to say ‘I can’t do this anymore’ – because I feel I haven’t got the reactions anymore, or I’ve just lost fun doing it and there is another generation growing up that is just very strong.
“So I have no doubt that whatever we agree on a contract extension, which is going to happen, that we both are always going to discuss, very openly, what does the future hold.”
It was believed originally that racing into his 40s was something Hamilton wasn’t keen on, with the 37-year-old having ambitions of doing more work outside of racing.
The 103-time GP winner is very much into his music and is a known collaborator with high-end clothing brand Tommy Hilfiger.
Wolff thinks Hamilton is actually open to the idea of racing in his 40s now, though, with 41-year-old Fernando Alonso proof that you can still be very competitive even after breaking into your 40s.
“I don’t know if 40 is that age where you say that is not adequate anymore for a racing driver,” Wolff added.
“If you look at where Fernando is with 41 years, he’s still very much there. Now, is he the same Fernando that he was at 25? I don’t know, but he’s very competitive still.
“You look at Tom Brady [NFL star] who is somebody I really admire for having the discipline in how he manages his life and his sport, he’s 43 or 44 – and he’s on the pitch.
“So Lewis, with the way he leads his life, with the full, ultra-narrow focus on his Formula 1 racing – all the others are just hobbies – I think he can take it quite far.”