In his Hollywood version of the year, 2022 will be his one shot at redemption. Fueled by his sense of injustice after the title decider last December in Abu Dhabi – which a controversial decision by racial control resulted in him losing the championship to Max Verstappen on the final lap – he will reclaim his crown this season.
There will be no doubt some setbacks along the way, perhaps more controversy in the final race, but the end result will be a record eighth world championship tied in a single lap. bow.
But Formula One doesn’t follow the Hollywood script. Far away from it.
Unlike movies where the protagonist always beats all odds, an F1 driver’s chance of success is almost entirely dependent on the performance of their car. And the clear reality in 2022 is that, despite spending eight straight years fighting for titles, Hamilton’s Mercedes simply isn’t fast enough to challenge Verstappen’s Red Bull.
Mercedes’ performance drop from year to year is possible stemming from a major change in technical regulations during the winter, which messes up the order of the group. As a result, Hamilton is currently sixth in the drivers’ standings and with six races remaining this year has been mathematically eliminated from the championship. The prospect of an eighth world title seems far-fetched, and for the first time in his F1 career there is a real risk that he will go an entire season without a race win.
Mercedes’ underperformance was evident as soon as the car hit the track during pre-season testing in February, and by the fourth lap of the year at Imola, Hamilton had eliminated his chance to fight for the title. It didn’t take long for his comments to spark speculation about his future, with some viewers suggesting he could use the underperformance as an easy excuse to take a break. retirement.
Hamilton’s Response Has Arrived via an Instagram post right after Imola, with an image caption that reads: “Working on my masterpiece, I’ll be the one to decide when it’s done.”
But with the determination to carry on like Hamilton, he certainly had to change his expectations this year. After eight consecutive seasons appearing at the racetracks expecting to win, victories are almost always out of the question this year.
So how did the seven-time world champion deal with such a big change in mindset?
“With a lot of difficulty,” he answered bluntly. “But I think it’s really just taking time to sit back, reflect and figure out what you can do better.
“As athletes, we’re very determined, we don’t like to lose, we don’t like to lose – failure is not an option. But sometimes you are, and that’s part of the process. .
“Then it’s about how you don’t beat yourself up, it’s how you take it, put it on your back and use it as experience to move forward.
“But it’s not easy. You can take a day, you can take five minutes, it can take you days.”
Hamilton says he’s been inspired by fellow super sports cars from the past year. He credits his friendships with Serena Williams and Tom Brady as a source of motivation and, as similarly aged athletes in similar stages of their careers, he has found common ground in the conversations. your own with them.
“I get a lot of inspiration from other athletes, like watching Serena,” he said. “Seeing all that she’s been through and the challenges, and in conversations like how she’s been through and self-healing and great performances – she’s just a Such warrior and she is my inspiration right now.
“I remember being at home with my dad watching her destroy it like it was in 1999. I certainly never thought we would be as close as we are now.
“And with Tom, I’ve been to the Super Bowl and seen him hold his head in his hands while they were losing and then come back with incredible mental strength. Also, he’s a great athlete. age and he’s killing it right now, so I want whatever you’re having!There’s a lot to learn from everyone.
“I’ve always hoped we could contact each other one day, so it’s so weird to sit with Tom and be able to talk to each other on a similar wavelength – it’s very very very very surreal, very great. “
But for Hamilton to return to victory, he has to rely largely on his team to improve his car. No matter how hard he trains or how flawlessly he drives, he will not challenge for titles without a car that is at least half a second faster each lap. It’s a truth he can’t escape, but also a truth he’s using to guide and fuel his own interactions with his engineers.
“We would love to participate in that battle [for the title]and I wish that all the cars were so much closer together and we all had a much better battle up close,” he said. I wish there was only 1/10th of a second between all of us, you know?
“But that’s not the way we sport. So I’m not worried about it – it’s not something I can control at the moment. I’m just focused on what I can and that’s it. is to try to do a better job with what we have.
“My worry, which keeps me on guard at night is: what did I miss? Who do I need to talk to at the track? How can I support my engineers? In the department airlines, how can I assist them to further refine their choice for their next vehicle?
“When I broke the car, I took the money out of the budget and I was like, ‘Oh, my God! Don’t’ do that!” And so that’s really what I’m focusing on and I hope when we come back next February, the car hits the ground and it does what we hope. “
Not having full control over when his next win will come sounds irritating, but Hamilton says teamwork is part of the appeal. Furthermore, Mercedes has taken him to six of seven world titles in his career and he is confident they will do so again.
“I do watch other sports and I wish it was just the pure ability that I had that made all the difference, but in F1, the ability of so many people comes together,” he said. “Communication, workload, process determine your direction.
“Like we’re all sailing and while we have Toto [Wolff, team principal] above the steering mechanism, we as the driver are also the part of the rod that steers it in the right direction.
“It’s definitely hard, but that should never be an excuse, it needs to work and I really wouldn’t want it any other way. Honestly, if it were easy and every day was okay. easy and you will get through it, it won’t be a challenge.
“I like the challenge of working with everyone and challenging everyone and they challenge me too. All admit that this year we didn’t do a great job but that doesn’t mean we were. can’t do a great job in the future. We’ve done it in the past.”
However, the big question remains: how long will it take for Mercedes to get back on the winning track?
Hamilton’s current contract expires at the end of next season and there has been much speculation about who will replace him if he retires. But he says the challenge of getting Mercedes back to the front of the grid could keep him in F1 even longer than originally planned.
“Sure, because it will take more than a year [to get back to the front of the grid]”, he say.” I think if we only won the title last year and then we win it again this year, surely life would be in a different place and I would be on a different path.
“I like that it went through an even tougher phase and we had to get through those thick slogans and get to the point where we were a little lighter and we were a little more buoyant. So , I would say that encouraged me to stay longer.
“Plus, I’m feeling healthy, I’m looking for ways to feel better physically. The mental challenge is a consistent thing and that’s always going to happen because that’s the way for them to be. I athletes, because we are in strength.
“But where I am in life right now, I’m really grateful for the opportunity I’ve had here. I like to think I still deserve a place here. And yes, there’s a lot of work to be done. do.”