Hamilton confounds his detractors again as Mercedes reverse early-season slump

2022 F1 team mate battles: Hamilton vs Russell

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It was a visibly pained Lewis Hamilton that emerged from the cockpit of his Mercedes after the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

His agony was the consequence of the especially fierce punishment he suffered on the long, bumpy straights of the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Montreal, the W13 smashing along its bumps so hard his back eventually went numb.

This was the nadir of Hamilton’s season so far. After Baku he’d been beaten home by his new team mate George Russell for seven consecutive races. Social media’s inexhaustible thirst for knee-jerk punditry was kept well-supplied by critics insisting the seven-times world champion was finished. But just five races later, how they have quietened.

Mercedes appear to have got to the bottom of the porpoising dilemma which plagued them early in the season and begun tapping into the performance offered by the car. Suddenly Hamilton appears to have clicked with the car, and Russell is hardly getting a look in any more.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Baku Street Circuit, 2022
Baku was a painful race for Hamilton
Circumstances may have tilted the qualifying scoreline – both crashed in Austria and Hamilton’s DRS failed in Hungary – but on race days it’s been all Hamilton. Russell posted the team’s only retirement of the season so far in his start-line tangle with Zhou Guanyu at Silverstone, which for Mercedes had the unfortunate side-effect of neutering Hamilton’s rocketship getaway on the original start.

Even so Hamilton had the pace to keep the front-runners in touch and set the fastest lap in the British Grand Prix. In Hungary too he was potentially quick enough to win had all the stars aligned.

Hamilton’s season has changed as if a switch had been flipped. That is not an entirely inaccurate characterisation of what has actually happened.

Hamilton vs Russell race-by-race

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Once it became clear Mercedes had got something fundamentally wrong with their new car, the team devoted race weekends to testing purposes, running experiments on their car to amass data. As the team pointed out, these tended to disadvantage one car – Hamilton’s – more than the others. The experiments continued up to the Canadian Grand Prix, where Hamilton turned his season around.

(L to R): Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes; Max Verstappen, Red Bull; George Russell, Mercedes; Paul Ricard, 2022
The pair are racking up podiums now
As things stand, 13 races into their first season together, Russell stacks up very well against a driver who represents a vertical leap in competitiveness from his last team mate. He leads on all four metrics, including claiming the majority of Mercedes’ points.

But all four of those measures have narrowed in recent races. If Hamilton continues at his present rate, he will flip them into the kind of scoreline most would have expected to see between the two drivers.

Even so, Russell is acquitting himself extremely well at Mercedes. His remarkable pole position in Hungary was only the latest example of that, pinched from under the noses of two Ferrari drivers who should have taken it, despite the Mercedes being no quicker than them in any single sector.

While Mercedes have clearly produced their least competitive car for many years, they can have few complaints over how well their drivers are using it.

Hamilton vs Russell season summary

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Hamilton vs Russell qualifying performance

Unrepresentative comparisons omitted. Negative value: Hamilton was faster; Positive value: Russell was faster

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2022 F1 season

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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75 comments on “Hamilton confounds his detractors again as Mercedes reverse early-season slump”

  1. As honourable as his recent achievements have been this year let’s be honest, it’s largely down to Ferrari’s ineptitude/unreliability and Perez’s fading form.

    1. @joshgeake – honestly Ferrari should really be leading this year. But both Mercedes and Rbr are capitalising from that. You still need to get in the car and deliver the results. The mess Mercedes are in this year is being managed very well and the Ferrari gift keeps on giving. Rbr just need to turn up and that’s exactly what they are doing, credit to Max he won’t ask twice if you give him the opportunity.

      So yeah other team(s) may flatter but the turn in fortune and the improvements to Mercedes car is due to the work and responsibility taken by Hamilton.

    2. You’ve missed the entire point of the article

      1. It seems though that the article has missed the point of this series.
        This series is all about comparing team mates (that’s why it’s called ‘team mate battles’). Yet this article (starting with the title) focuses on the ‘fight’ between Hamilton and his ‘detractors’.

        1. Because his detractors point to the relative performance of him and his team-mate? Its a bit of a circle so it’s completely fair…

        2. The series is mainly about drivers and teams battling it out. The detractors of hamilton have made hamilton struggles an issue hence the report. Of course they would keep quiet now, when they were talking they absolutely ignored the fact that merc was slower than rbr and ferrari and that he was running some of those races with testing equipment and safety cars faboured russell. Is it any wonder then that when the car has been sorted, the guy who drove around with testing equipment is acing it?

    3. @joshgeake Even if Ferrari or its drivers hadn’t made a mistake all season, the article would be the same because it’s comparing Hamilton and Russell. Yes, without doubt, Mercedes has benefitted hugely from Ferrari’s mistakes (as has Red Bull), but Hamilton is starting to look like the better race driver.

      It’s also worth noting that more than once Russell finished ahead of Hamilton in races thanks to fortuitously timed SCs. Yes, I know that can go both ways, but so far this season, it’s only gone Russell’s way.

  2. Russell is ahead of Hamilton on all metrics but the article headline reads as if Ham is ahead. Yes it’s true he is coming back on form but for Russell to be this competitive from the start, against a legend, it’s a very good performance that deserved the credit on the headline imo.

    1. It reflects that in the last 5 races Hamilton has been looking to get back the initiative in the comparison between the two @pmccarthy_is_a_legend – that presents the idea that now that the car is capable of achieving some results, Hamilton is back on form / motivated to get that little extra out and achieve results.

      But Russel has certainly showed he deserves to be in the car and I would think that Mercedes has to be very happy to have him since he has carried the team (at least results wise, hard to say what it’s like inside the garage) for the first 5 races when Hamilton seemed to be nowhere.

      1. @bascb

        It reflects that in the last 5 races Hamilton has been looking to get back the initiative in the comparison between the two

        Yeah I appreciate that but this is a half season report not a “last 5 races” report.

    2. Andy (@andyfromsandy)
      15th August 2022, 8:52

      It reads that until the last 5 or 6 races Lewis had lost his crown to George. Quite a few commentators had decided that George was pummelling Lewis, etc. Now the race results are more in line with expectations.

      MB made it clear after a few races the work and experiments Lewis was carrying out to the detriment of getting a better race. car but some reason this was dismissed by many. Having stopped most of that and concentrating on getting the setup right has shown the form never left.

      1. People are, for some reason, desperate to believe Hamilton is over the hill and will refuse the mountain of evidence that he’s not.

      2. MB made it clear after a few races the work and experiments Lewis was carrying out to the detriment of getting a better race. car but some reason this was dismissed by many

        That ‘some reason’ seems self induced to me, as it should hardly be a surprise after all the false narratives the team spread in 2021.

        1. @Mayrton What “false narratives” did Mercedes spreading according to you ?

    3. Russell has performed very well. But ever since Hamilton stopped running experiments for Merc, hes’ comfortably had the measure of Russell. In the races since, its felt a bit like the Bottas era. Its a bit concerning that Hamilton spent 7 races running wild experiments for Merc but is still almost level with Russell. Its almost like he gave him a headstart and still caught him. Having said that, its Russell’s first season at Merc and he will get better.

      1. Good point!

        Hamilton has spent much of the season gathering data and testing theories for potential upgrades.
        Russell on the other hand was allowed to use all his practice sessions to set his car as he pleased.

        This of course was only part of the story. Russell also benifited from strategy breaks which followed
        SC’s in the earlier part of the season. Now the cars more stable and we are seeing Hamilton gaining
        from a better setup and his own share of good fortune.

      2. Also it’s quit know that Lewis is a slow starter and gets beter with each race as the season goes….. So compairing is probaly the best at the end of a season and not in the beginning.

    4. @pmccarthy_is_a_legend It also shouldn’t be forgotten that Russell finished ahead of Hamilton in a couple of races thanks to being able to pit under a SC. Yes, that type of thing can go both ways, but so far this season it’s only gone Russell’s way.

    5. Dude hasn’t even won a race much less a championship. I’m starting to think even George is starting to believe nonsense like this. He’s in for a rude awakening.

      1. When we’re talking about merit russell won sakhir 2020, ofc realistically speaking he only had to outperform bottas, which he did very clearly, I think red bull was probably up there, but verstappen got taken out at start and the less said about his team mate the better, that russell didn’t win a race yet is no reflection on his performance, and as for the championship, you need a good car for that.

    6. legend? what legend?

  3. I have to admit I didn’t buy Hamilton’s “excuses” re. experimental parts on his car. My thinking was, that’s F1 you experiment to explore new ways to maximize potential. It looks like I was wrong, and that MB were very clever in giving there rookie a solid start with a great confidence boost while Hamilton took on the burden of a trial and error process comparing against Russel as the control.
    I’m not specifically a Hamilton fan, I just love the sport, but this season Hamilton has maybe been more impressive than ever. Taking that dip in performance on the chin and having the self confidence to come back extremely strong in the last 5 races. I also think George is exceptional, but you just can’t walk into MB where Hamilton has been killing it for years and expect to be beating him, he’s right there though and the second half of the season will be really interesting :)

    1. I believe Mercedes were so confused with their new car and Hamilton still recovering from last year’s season ending fiasco decided to try salvage the car with the hope he could soon be in contention for the championship. After half of the season they’ve come to the realisation that there is no quick fix for the car and have just decided to race it as it is.

  4. Hard to judge this one since it merely depends on the credibility of the Mercedes narrative of letting Hamilton do the testing and experiments.

    1. Can you explain why you think Mercedes would lie about this and to what end? @Mayrton

      1. Very simple, Mercedes have been and are lying about everything. All is politics, all is PR and trying to frame whatever happens into a specific narrative with Toto as King Liar Liar leading Mercedes and dragging F1 down the drain.

        1. @jelle-van-der-meer

          Wow, they’ve really upset you!

          1. @paulguitar Those Dutch chips weigh heavy on the shoulders.

          2. One doesn’t have to be a verstappen fan to be anti-mercedes, if you value honesty wouldn’t dishonest people annoy you? I’m not saying they have been this year, but they certainly have in the past.

        2. @jelle-van-der-meer What is it you think Mercedes have lied about in the past?

        3. @jelle-van-der-meer

          I’m pretty sure you find Horner the pillar of honesty and character.

      2. Mercedes, like all teams, need to find constructive narratives to explain why they’re not winning every race. This is why the press conferences are largely full of meaningless tripe.

      3. That is based on the 2021 season in particular (and perpetual sand bagging in many season preceding 2021). They seem to never be sincere when it comes to any press outings. It is all politically motivated speech to either hide shortcomings or discredit competitors. While I am not as emotional about it as some, I do feel they have discredited the sport overall and hurt the Mercedes brand. So I am reluctant to account value to anything they say.

        1. Yes, remember how many of us wouldn’t believe them when the season started about them being behind? We thought they were sandbagging, it’s a matter of crying wolf here, in case someone misunderstand, I’m talking about the saying, not the team principal.

        2. Which teams/team principals do you regard as sincere?

          1. Christian Horner of course! 😂😂😂

        3. @Mayrton You are probably a Red Bull/Max fan when you write nonsense like that. Red Bull had been cheating and crying to the FIA about Mercedes but Mercedes is lying accoring to you. The FIA literally changed the 2021 floor regulation to help Red Bull and to handicap Mercedes who had to cut their rear floor by 10% which affected their down force majorly. Dude, if you have no idea what you are talking about then shut your horse mouth, i am so tired of you toxic RB/Max fans.

  5. What kind of article is this? The other entries in this series try to give a neutral analysis of the relative performance of the drivers versus their teammate, but this entry reads like a triumphalist Hamilton fanpost for some reason.

    ‘Russel still ahead on all metrics but the momentum has definately swung toward Hamilton over the most recent races’ would be a more objective way of putting it.

    1. This is an UK website and they do have a big champion of the past driving around which they would like to label goat (or already label as such). So they will need this kind of support to uphold that narrative. F1 is historically UK driven and part of maintaining that advantage is driven by the media, politically steering towards the desired result for, or perception of, British teams and drivers. This has been the case since the kick-off of F1 and addressed by many non UK drivers.

    2. The reality is that in the Mercedes team there is a story within the story. The only other team that may have a sub plot within the team mate comparison might be Aston. They also can’t believe where their car ended up.

      1. That being said, mercedes car is already pretty good by mid season and are likely to end up 2nd in the championship.

    3. This is not the place for proper, objective journalism.

      1. Than you must be new to this website if you believe what you are writing.

  6. People comment and complain about every Hamilton article- Verstappen fans creating arguments in the comments section and hate the Hamilton bias out loud. They still don’t realise that it is on purpose to create more ad revenue and more clicks. If this website wasn’t biased there would merely be half of the comments and people paying attention to it.

    Don’t hate the player, hate the game.

    1. I mean, it’s definitely on purpose for click generation. But I disagree there’s necessarily a bias in the actual content. The headers definitely are designed to trigger people, though. The actual articles are fairly nuanced.

    2. I think they love the game rather than hate it!

  7. Both drivers are largely outperforming the car and scoring the maximum week in week out now. At the start of the season it’s pretty clear Hamilton had some distractions that prevented him doing it and got some wicked slices of luck run against him but things seem to be working out for both drivers.

    Arguably the team on the grid that has got the closest to the maximum out of their car (taking into account finishing relative to performance and reliability). I think Hamilton will have too much for Russell over the remainder of the season but I think Russell will be more on the level of Rosberg than Bottas in relative performance terms.

    1. Arguably the team on the grid that has got the closest to the maximum out of their car

      Below the average driver ratings per team based on @WillWood‘s race ratings:
      Red Bull 6.5
      Mercedes 6.3
      Ferrari 6.2
      Alpine 6.0
      McLaren 5.5
      Alfa Romeo 5.3
      Alpha Tauri 5.2
      Haas 5.1
      Aston Martin 5.0
      Williams 4.7

      PS there were no ratings above 10, so I doubt any driver ‘outperformed’ their car ;)

      1. Lewisham Milton
        15th August 2022, 14:40

        The average of all those numbers is 5.3. And the average toes on my feet is 5.0.

        1. There’s no way in hell the average of those is 5.3, there’s more marks above 5.3 than there are below, and those above are massively above compared to those below (1.2 vs 0.6)…

          1. The mean average is 5.58, so no idea where 5.3 is coming from unless someone picked the 6th value as the median for no reason whatsoever.

      2. I think that just shows driver performance and not team performance, clearly Red Bull and Ferrari lost more points for reliability issues that do not get reflected in Will’s scores. I also said it was arguable, not a fact.

        1. Yes, I agree, in terms of maximising points for car performance, mercedes is closest, then red bull, then ferrari when it comes to the top teams.

  8. So far I’d place Russell second to Alonso in terms of the strongest team mates he’s faced (Hamilton himself named Alonso, again, this year as the strongest he’s faced over his career). That’s stronger than Rosberg, I think, who nabbed one title from Hamilton. Mercedes should be really happy. Russell is fast, aggressive, has no problem pushing through the field when he has to and can, and is extremely consistent in terms of pace and overall performance (leaving aside the ins and out of some clashes on track). There was never anyway Hamilton was going to be fading this season because of some mysterious aging factor – the final races of last year were among his very best. The question was motivation after the Abu Dhabi finale, plus the arrival of Russell. I think he’s already worked George out in terms of the level of threat he poses. He can deal with it.

    1. I totally agree with your comments but Russell has youth on his side and is improving all the time.

  9. People called me a Lewis hater for saying Russell vs Hamilton was a 50/50 tossup before the season, if that made me one (not that I am) then I don’t see how this season has disproven anything. Unless those people have decided to retroactively shift their goalpost so Hamilton matching George, instead of beating him as much or even more than he beat Bottas as everyone said he would, is now considered a success. With that said the Mercedes lineup is the strongest on the grid, or certainly the lineup with the least weaknesses. They’ve both done a great job dragging that car up to the Ferrari’s and Perez, even if luck has played a part in it.

    1. Luck? How come? Ferrari’s dumb and Perez have his off weekends every once in a while, its not luck if they are able to capitalize on this.
      If anything, they were unlucky. Their results could be even better if some events had not happened.

    2. Lets see where they lie at the end of the year, historically Hamilton has a better second half of the year.

      1. I’d say they have good chances to move up ahead of everyone but red bull\verstappen, if anything because of ferrari’s incompetence, I don’t doubt leclerc’s ability.

        1. Yeah they certainly might have that chance but they will need the car to take one more performance step to overhaul Ferrari I think.

          Leclerc for me is probably the fastest driver on the grid but he’s still not got the consistency of Hamilton or Verstappen yet, perhaps because he drives so close to the limit.

  10. There are few things that were not mentioned in this summary. Both in Australia & Miami Hamilton was set to finish ahead of Russell, who jumped the former by staying out long and pitting under (V)SC. In both these races it was the result of Hamilton fighting for position and pitting (in Aus with Perez for what would be eventual 2nd place, and in Miami with Bottas for 5th), while Russell was in virtual no-mans land and had nothing to lose by staying out long and it paid off for him in those races.

    The exact opposite situation happened in Hungary, when Russell had to fight with both Ferrari and Verstappen at the front while Hamilton was making his lone race and strategy work from the back.

    In Monaco, Hamilton had just one hot lap in Q3, compared to Russell who managed to complete a second one and jumped Hamilton in the process. In Bahrain & Spain Hamilton showed great pace.

    The contact with Magnussen in Spain, the late Safety Car in Silverstone, and the DRS issue in Hungary were events that costed Hamilton very realistic shot at victories in those races. These in my view overweights the lows he has had in Saudi Arabia, Imola and Azerbaijan.

    Russell was taken out in Silverstone and lost points there, but that is in opinion the only the thing that I see as counterargument to what I stated above. It seems to me that Hamilton is having his “standard” season with occasional lows in qualifyings, which were unfortunately for him made worse by the porpoising problems and poor performance of Mercedes car in traffic/in overtaking.

  11. If stating the obvious, “George had a better first half as he is ahead on points” makes me a detractor then count me as one. There are always “reasons” why one driver could have been ahead of the other. Would love to encounter the objectivity that used to exist in RF articles. Don’t let facts get in the way of another LH puff piece.

  12. Sorry, but this is an awful article by all the possible metrics. So pro-Lewis and con-Russell that it hurts. As if only the most recent GP’s counts. Dreadful writing.

    What are your best alternatives to RaceFans? /r/Formula1 has been good fun and always superior to RaceFans, but I’d love to find something a bit more serious than /r/Formula1 to follow.

    1. Yes, this article is probably a bit biased, especially the headline; contrary to what a lot of people from various sites say (accusing them of british bias), I find the ratings from edd straw on the “the race” site very objective.

    2. As if only the most recent GP’s counts. Dreadful writing.

      It’s not ‘writing’, it’s an interpretation of the season’s races so far, based on a large number of different factors, to answer the question of whether Hamilton is ‘finished’ as a driver. It concludes that he isn’t and that whatever was happening earlier, he’s now comfortably ahead of Russell in terms of pace and results. I think that’s the right assessment. Don’t think so? Explain why.
      I’ve no idea what you’re expecting instead but it would seem to be entirely dissociated from the point of the article.

  13. Suddenly Hamilton appears to have clicked with the car, and Russell is hardly getting a look in any more.

    Wot?!

    Poles and leading in th4e championship intra team completion is Russell “hardly getting a look in”? Absurd.

    1. Pole, not poles.
      And he’s been following Hamilton home since Baku. That’s what the text explicitly points out.

      What’s the big deal?

  14. The only thing better than Hamiltons comeback is watching the usual suspects blowing a gasket in the comments section ;-)

  15. Weighing this pairing depends entirely on how much value one can give to the alleged ‘experiments’ Hamilton carried out whilst Russell was running with the baseline car. However, what we can know for certain is that once Mercedes stopped saying this was how they were going about things, Hamilton has comfortably been ahead of Russell. That at least lends some credibility to the narrative Mercedes has put out.

    Russell has certainly been impressively consistent, but he’s not really done anything particularly special either. Part of that is due to the gap between the Mercedes and the Ferrari/Red Bull pair of course, but combined with Hamilton’s recent (or: post-experimentation) form Russell will want to step up his game a bit. The way it’s going now, he looks to be slotting in between the Bottas and Rosberg role. Whether he becomes a consistent threat to Hamilton, or continues to follow him around will also determine how complicated Mercedes’ decision is when Hamilton inevitably retires at some point. Can Russell be their next lead driver? So far, it’s not yet a slam dunk.

    1. This was known to the movers and shakers, even as you remained ignorant of the obvious.

      Think about it, the car was never going to just fix itself. It obviously needed someone to make that supreme effort, to even sacrifice themselves to achieve the goal that team strives for.

      https://www.express.co.uk/sport/f1-autosport/1615563/Lewis-Hamilton-sacrifice-theory-George-Russell-Mercedes-F1-news

      1. Luckily Saint Lewis came through. Such a blessing to have him on the team.

  16. Seems everyone forget Lewis is always slow in the begining of a season and at the looks of it things are turning into normal… Means Lewis is getting ahead of George as normal.

  17. Hamilton confounds his detractors again..

    Judging by a lot of the comments here, it seems the headline of the article was spot on!

  18. Once it became clear Mercedes had got something fundamentally wrong with their new car, the team devoted race weekends to testing purposes, running experiments on their car to amass data. As the team pointed out, these tended to disadvantage one car – Hamilton’s – more than the others.

    Yes, Mercedes narrative is infallible, isn’t it? ;)

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