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F1: How Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes can still battle back and continue winning streak

Montreal provides many happy memories for Lewis Hamilton.

The Gilles Villeneuve Circuit was the scene of his first Grand Prix win in Formula 1, as well as his first pole position way back from his rookie year with McLaren in 2007.

The wins have piled up in Canada since then – seven in all. Only in Great Britain and Hungary has he been more victorious with eight wins and three times more riding at Silverstone and the Hungaroring than his 12 visits to the man-made island in the St. Lawrence River.

Lewis Hamilton celebrates winning his first ever race at the 2007 Canadian Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton celebrates winning his first ever race at the 2007 Canadian Grand Prix

Simple math tells us that when Hamilton arrives in Canada he will most likely leave with a winner’s trophy, but this year he will probably be very lucky to only get a top three finish.

As recently as Sunday it may have been considered unlikely that he would even start the race due to a back injury and that pretty much sums up what will be a nightmare season for the seven-time world champion.

It doesn’t matter not to win in Canada, such is the slump in fortune for the 37-year-old, there is now concern that for the first time in his Formula 1 career he could go a full year without a race win.

This was to be the year Hamilton put to rest the bitter disappointment of his controversial final round title loss to Max Verstappen in Abu Dhabi last year by claiming a record eighth world championship.

Hamilton has won a race in every Grand Prix season since, but will struggle for wins in 2022

Hamilton has won a race in every Grand Prix season since, but will struggle for wins in 2022

Those hopes already seemed dashed, with Hamilton sitting a whopping 88 points behind Verstappen – whose Red Bull team appears to be the class of the field.

But is there any hope that Hamilton will somehow hold onto his bid to land on the top step of the podium this year?

Looking at the evidence of 2022, things don’t look good. Not only does he no longer have the best car, but this year’s Mercedes looks like one of the most challenging cars on the grid to drive. Even if a sweet spot in the set-up is found, it’s just no match for Red Bull and much of Ferrari.

All eight races have been won by Red Bull or Charles Leclerc for the Maranello outfit and Mercedes has not had the sniff to even come close.

But regardless of race wins, Hamilton must first beat his teammate – something he hasn’t done since the opening race of the season, when he claimed third place after Red Bull’s dramatic double retirement late in the race.

The Brit has not even been on the podium since finishing third in the opening race in Bahrain

The Brit has not even been on the podium since finishing third in the opening race in Bahrain

Hamilton has finished behind new Mercedes teammate George Russell in the last seven races

Hamilton has finished behind new Mercedes teammate George Russell in the last seven races

Since Sakhir, George Russell has managed to beat his British compatriot in the next seven races, taking three podiums of his own, establishing a rather worrying 37-point lead over Hamilton from the veteran’s point of view.

Russell is new to the team after coming over from Williams in early 2022 to replace Valtteri Bottas, who in his five years as Hamilton’s teammate was long chewed up and spat out as a competitive threat, even if the two had a harmonious relationship.

However, Russell has upset the balance and the 24-year-old is now a serious threat to Hamilton, who is unlikely to improve this late in his career as he approaches the wrong side of 40.

Even if Mercedes finds a sudden solution to their car’s lack of speed, it looks like Hamilton is now also facing one of the toughest teammate fights he’s had in his career.

Mercedes’ troubles offer a mix of frustration and light at the end of the tunnel, although it’s all first for Hamilton at the moment.

Hamilton suffers from bouncing phenomenon caused by porpoises in his Mercedes

Hamilton suffers from bouncing phenomenon caused by porpoises in his Mercedes

A very experimental approach to designing a new car for the new rules and regulations for 2022 led Mercedes to a unique ‘no side pod’ design and it seems to have gotten them into all sorts of trouble.

While most of the cars on the grid have had to deal with porpoises, no team more than Mercedes has suffered from the phenomenon that the car bounces violently up and down to six times the force of gravity when the car reaches high speeds on a straight. . †

It is precisely this problem that resulted in Hamilton barely climbing out of his cockpit after finishing fourth at Sunday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix after complaining of a bad back.

Mercedes can raise the car’s ride height to counter this, but the Silver Arrows hope the FIA ​​will make it mandatory for every team to raise their car as well because of the negative impact this will have on lap time.

Hamilton will be relieved to hear F1 chiefs swear on Thursday to remove porpoises on the advice of his medical teams.

A statement from F1’s governing body released ahead of this weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix reads: “The FIA, as the sport’s governing body, has decided that in the interest of safety it is necessary to to demand that the teams make the necessary adjustments to reduce or eliminate this phenomenon [of porpoising]†

“The FIA ​​has decided to intervene after consulting its doctors in the interest of drivers’ safety.”

The team may even find a solution to it, and if they do, it could be the magic bullet that sends them back into the fray for race wins.

It has resulted in back injuries as he is helped out of his car after the Azerbaijan Grand Prix

It has resulted in back injuries as he is helped out of his car after the Azerbaijan Grand Prix

Sounds unrealistic? In 2009, defending the title, Hamilton spent the first half of the season struggling in the back – even as the second slowest car at Silverstone in qualifying – before winning the Hungarian Grand Prix two races later thanks to major improvements to his McLaren.

Such improvements are theoretically limited this term due to a budget cap, but then Hamilton drives the third best car on the grid and not one of the worst. The point is, there are dramatic improvements to be found.

But even if there aren’t any performance gains, there are other ways Hamilton can get a win before the end of the season.

Grands Prix tend to throw up the strange random race where chaos reigns and an unlikely winner emerges and this usually happens during a wet race.

Hamilton was superior in the wet conditions and won his seventh title in Turkey in 2020

Hamilton was superior in the wet conditions and won his seventh title in Turkey in 2020

Step forward the ultimate rain master. Hamilton has shown excellent wet weather handling throughout his career and it was in Turkey in 2020 where – in very slippery conditions on a wet track – he took a famous win along with his seventh world championship, or last year in Russia when a late downpour saw him emerge between the carnage with the winner’s trophy.

Admittedly Monaco has been wet this season and he finished much of the race behind his old rival Fernando Alonso en route to eighth – but then the streets of Monte Carlo can be unique in this regard.

He was also off pace on a damp track at Imola, but again his pace was greatly masked by being in 13th place behind Pierre Gasly for much of the race.

Admittedly, these are situations he could have avoided had he qualified better, but they should not be used as an argument against how talented he can be at wet weather driving.

But in the mixed conditions at Imola this year, he lagged behind Pierre Gasly (above)

But in the mixed conditions at Imola this year, he lagged behind Pierre Gasly (above)

It doesn’t have to be wet either. One of Hamilton’s best performances this season came in Spain when, after being eliminated at the start through no fault of his own, he effectively came from the back of the grid and climbed to a stellar fifth place – overtaking Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz.

There is hope for Mercedes that when they can get the tricky W13 working they can offer a fight to Ferrari, but what about Red Bull?

Never rule out the potential for retirement or freak safety cars. Admittedly this means relying on luck, but a win is a win and given the questionable reliability of Red Bull and Ferrari – who had a double DNF last time in Azerbaijan – Mercedes as the third best team is best placed to win. to hit. Even a well-timed safety car can play into Hamilton’s hands and he just needs a chance.

Don’t forget that Alpine’s Esteban Ocon won last year’s Hungarian Grand Prix with the fifth best car, while the previous two races at Monza in Italy saw teams outside the top two claim success.

Things look bleak for Hamilton in what has been one of the most, if not the most, testing seasons of his career, but given his talent and the curious way a season or even a race can fall into a driver’s lap – you can just don’t decide to put him on the top step yet this year.

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