The most successful driver in Formula 1 history has had more than one dry season. Perhaps Lewis Hamilton remembers dancing with his Mercedes between the terrifying walls of Jeddah that he achieved his last victory here, at the 2021 Saudi Arabian GP held in December. It was a weighty triumph, a big door after fighting Verstappen and coming to touch. That race equaled him in the World Cup standings with the Dutchman before the last race, Abu Dhabi. But in Yas Marina his legend was twisted with a safety car unlucky; and in 2022 the wind left him in favor: the Mercedes was no longer a dominant car. It still isn’t.
At the foot of the track, the seven-time English champion suffers at the wheel of the W14. He is imprecise, blocks and slides. Something inappropriate for one of the finest champions in one lap. “It’s more or less the same. I have been suffering in both sessions. I will continue to go into detail, I will try to improve the balance of the car to make it easier to drive. It’s difficult to drive but I know how difficult it is to drive. It’s a matter of time”, he said as he got out of the eleventh car in free practice.
There are changes around Hamilton. And it’s not because his physio of the last few years, Angela Cullen, has left F1; but because the philosophy that produced champion cars at Brackley has been proven wrong in recent months. Own Sir Lewis slipped in Bahrain that: “If they had listened to me…”. And now it is explained: “You don’t always agree with some team members, although I still believe 100% in them. We have seen where the benefits are and we have to start making firm decisions to close the disadvantage, because otherwise they are going to escape unless Ferrari stops them”.
Hamilton comes to say that Mercedes should have changed the concept of its car in winter, to get closer to the style of Red Bull, instead of sustaining an idea that had not given results in 2022. “They were sure that we would be more or less there (in front of), so it was a ‘shock’ when we saw that this was not the case. I knew we weren’t in a good place because you see the car for the first time and you see that it is still very different from our rivals. I hope we make it a winning car at some point,” he elaborates. “I will win again, but it will take longer”, close. The driver who devastated F1 will have to find his way back.