For the team that took eight constructors’ titles in a row from 2014 to 2021, and seven drivers’ titles from 2014 to 2020, the 2022 season has been nothing short of uncomfortable for the Mercedes-AMG Petronas team.
At the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona, after a series of heavy upgrades were unveiled on the team’s 2022 car, the F1 W13, the team looked as though they were on track to drag themselves back to the front of the pack. While Mercedes freshman George Russell’s impressive streak of nine top-five finishes was certainly impressive, the pace for veteran Lewis Hamilton was more sporadic.
Through Spain, Monaco, Azerbaijan, and now Great Britain, that story has changed.
Hamilton ended his home Grand Prix on the third step of the podium, his third finish of third place this year, and his second in as many races following the Canadian Grand Prix last time out. And the road to that result was nothing short of war for the man from Stevenage.
Hamilton ran a massive race from the moment the lights went out. The sport’s most successful driver found himself in the lead after the Ferraris of Charles Leclerc and eventual winner Carlos Sainz pitted on laps 25 and 20, respectively.
Hamilton stretched the medium tires he started the race on to lap 33, building a near 19-second gap on the Ferraris before making a stop for hard tires. A slow stop left Hamilton nearly four seconds behind the Ferrari pair, but that gap was erased owing to a safety car brought out by Esteban Ocon’s Alpine coming to a halt exiting the Woodcote corner.
Pitting for soft tires along with Sainz, Hamilton made a charge at leader Leclerc on the restart. Leclerc had been denied the opportunity to pit for fresh tires by Ferrari and was consequently running a race of damage limitation against a crowd of cars on faster fresher tires.
When the race resumed with 10 laps to go, Sainz blitzed by Leclerc and waltzed into the distance en route to his first win. Behind the Spaniard, chaos ensued.
Leclerc effectively held up Hamilton and Sergio Perez, and the ensuing battle between those three brought Fernando Alonso and Lando Norris into the battle for second place as well. The result was a solid eight laps of cars running each other off the track, Hamilton overtaking both Perez and Leclerc in one corner, Leclerc and Hamilton going side by side through Copse, and Alonso nearly grabbing an upset podium finish.
Perez ultimately made his way by Hamilton and pulled out a two-second gap over the Briton by the race’s end, but Hamilton’s podium finish was cause enough for elation in the Mercedes garage.
“I gave it everything today, I was trying to chase down those Ferraris. But congratulations to Carlos, they were just too quick for us today,” Hamilton told Jenson Button in the post race interview session.
“And at the end, I was in amongst that battle with Checo. Those guys were just too quick on the straights for me today. But, I’m so, so grateful for the hard work all the team did to get an upgrade here. We’ve made a step closer to them, so we’ve got to keep pushing.”
Hamilton’s fight to dictate the composure of the podium spoke well as to the nature and efficacy of Mercedes’ recent upgrades, and then some. If the performance of the Mercedes’ car continues to improve at this rate, the British national anthem may very well ring throughout the podium procession sooner than later.
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