For the first time in his F1 career, Lewis Hamilton has gone through an entire season without winning a single Grand Prix. 2022 has been a marked departure for the Brit, especially compared to the previous season where he took eight wins while engaging in a titanic title fight with Max Verstappen. On top of this, his team Mercedes, have been dethroned from the constructor’s title for the first time in eight years and Hamilton finished behind his new teammate, George Russell, in the driver standings. The drop is sudden, but is the result of several factors coming together all at once. So, the question is… Is this the beginning of the end for Lewis Hamilton?
Heading into the new season
The finale of the 2021 season was arguably the most controversial moment in the sport’s history. Hamilton’s contentious defeat resulted in him completely disappearing from the public eye, while fans and officials of the F1 community vigorously debated what had transpired. There were rumours that Hamilton might not return to the sport at all, but he eventually confirmed his return just in time for the 2022 season. Whilst Hamilton maintains that the events in Abu Dhabi did not have a significant impact, it’s definitely worth keeping in mind with how the season played out.
2022 brought a whole host of new technical regulations. Design developments focused on ‘ground effect’ to generate the majority of downforce, and it’s fair to say Mercedes failed to get this under control. Their supposedly revolutionary ‘zero-sidepod’ design severely limited Mercedes’ performance as the car suffered from ‘porpoising’, where the car vibrates violently when at high speeds due to the floor of the car being so close to the ground. Even when this issue was mostly solved, other parts of the car were deficient, which led to Hamilton stating that the car was ‘undrivable’
Having consigned himself to a below-average season after a miserable showing in pre-season, Hamilton was left pleasantly surprised after the first race of the year. Mercedes comfortably placed third fastest and Hamilton took a podium place after reliability issues hindered both Red Bull cars. Hamilton, however, fully understood the scale of the task faced by him and his team to be truly competitive again.
Partially motivated to allow teammate Russell more experience within the team, Hamilton spent the following races experimenting with his set-up to try and find more performance from the troubled car. Hamilton qualified an embarrassing 16th in Saudi Arabia, only managing to salvage a single point in the race. In Imola, he was constantly stuck in the midfield, unable to even manage an overtake. This combined with issues concerning safety cars benefitting those around him in Australia and Miami, left Lewis with a poor set of results. And so, after only eight races in, at the Canadian Grand Prix, the experiments were halted.
The Mercedes car slowly became more competitive over the course of the season, giving Hamilton better opportunities to challenge at the top. Despite this, Hamilton failed to achieve a win. It was at Silverstone where Lewis had his first real chance for victory after Verstappen sustained damage, but an ill-timed safety car dashed his hopes. Zandvoort looked promising until another safety car left Lewis out on old tyres while those behind him pitted. The United States Grand Prix presented a seemingly golden ticket for Hamilton following a slow pit stop for Verstappen, but the dutchman was able to get back out in front in the final few laps. However, the biggest missed opportunity was arguably at Brazil. Mercedes had the fastest car, but Hamilton was unable to catch and pass Russell, for what would be Mercedes single win for the year.
This has easily been Hamilton’s worst season in his F1 career, so the best thing for him to do is simply put this year behind him. It appears he has already done that, openly admitting to looking forward to the last time he has to ‘drive this thing’ in the build-up to the final race of the year. He and Mercedes now have to focus hard on how to fully solve their issues for next season. As a driver, Hamilton has not been at his dominant best, with him losing his ‘a win every season’ record. If Hamilton, Russell and Mercedes do fix their issues, then we may just see them back at the top once more, but it remains to be seen whether they can fully climb back on top of the F1 mountain.