Lewis Hamilton: has Formula 1’s most successful driver already won his final race?

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Lewis Hamilton is still on the hunt for his first race win of 2022 - a feat that is looking increasingly unlikely

It’s no secret that Mercedes have been struggling this year. For the first time since the Hybrid era began back in 2014, the Silver Arrows are not going to win this year’s Constructor’ Championship.

That is, of course, unless Ferrari and Red Bull manage to crash in every single race until the end - not an inconceivable reality for the Italian horses’ luck unfortunately.

But realistically, that’s just not on the cards.

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And, potentially even more shockingly given Lewis Hamilton’s stunning form over the past 15 years, he is currently without a race win in 2022.

For the first time in his career, he has not won a race this season and with the current form of the Brackley-based team, the seven-time world champion looks unlikely to stand at the top of the podium this season.

It begs the question: have we already witnessed Lewis Hamilton’s final race win in Formula 1?

At the end of the 2021 Formula 1 year, Hamilton came agonisingly close to missing out on a record breaking eighth world championship.

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Ahead of the final race in Abu Dhabi, Hamilton and Verstappen were on the same number of points.

The Dutchman had 10 victories to his name while Hamilton had eight, yet offered more consistency in his other non-winning performances.

As close as Hamilton came to winning that illustrious eighth world title (just one lap and one controversial decision away), it almost seems F1 scripture decreed that he could not win.

Hamilton collides with Alonso in SpaHamilton collides with Alonso in Spa
Hamilton collides with Alonso in Spa

Eight race wins after seven world championships won - does this sound familiar?

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For those not quite as obsessed with stats as some of us around here, let me explain.

After Michael Schumacher had won his seventh World Championship in 2004, he proceeded to win eight races and no more - his last race win coming at the 2006 Chinese Grand Prix.

In fairness to Schumacher, he retired for four years before coming back in 2010, but on his return found himself finishing ninth, eight and 13th in the Drivers’ Championship, rather than up within the top three he had once known.

Now, while this may be just some freaky coincidence - the exact number eight is quite impossible to explain - the reasonings behind such a sudden drop in success are not inexplicable and may in fact signal the end of the Hamilton-dominance era.

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The first and obvious reason for Hamilton’s drop in wins is clearly the car he drives, which is miles behind its fiercest competitors Red Bull and Ferrari.

And unfortunately for Hamilton and his teammate George Russell, there seems no end in sight to their particular misery with Team Principal Toto Wolff recently admitting: “It’s a very difficult situation because we obviously have a certain concept of a car. It’s not like we can experiment a lot this year and simply dial stuff out and test.

“In this very moment, to make a decision for next year, whatever it may be, like changing the concept dramatically, how can you be sure that that’s the better direction to go because clearly we’ll be starting a little bit way back?”

While a lot is yet to be worked out ahead of the 2023 season, the Mercedes garage is not sounding overwhelmingly positive that it’s going to be a year of progress - it may well be just another year of playing catch-up.

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And, if we are to assume the rather obvious notion that Hamilton will stay with Mercedes next year rather than move, it would appear the next race win could hypothetically come at its earliest in 2024, by which time the Briton will be 39 years of age.

However, is it just the car that’s to blame?

They may not have secured any race wins, and for that the car should most definitely take the fault, however George Russell has consistently finished in the top five every race.

His teammate, on the other hand - the one with seven world championships - has endured a season of scattergun form, with results including a DNF, a 13th place finish and 10th place finish.

You have to question, is there another reason for Hamilton’s inconsistency and lack of win?

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Schumacher won 8 races after his seventh world title - as has HamiltonSchumacher won 8 races after his seventh world title - as has Hamilton
Schumacher won 8 races after his seventh world title - as has Hamilton

The Belgian Grand Prix highlighted yet another rather more helpless change that comes to us all, but has come to Hamilton in a rather more obvious fashion.

At 37 years of age, in the grand scheme of life, this is not old - far from it. However, in the world of sport this is very much considered ‘past one’s prime’ - although cricket’s Jimmy Anderson and Manchester United’s Cristiano Ronaldo may have something to say on the possibilites of sporting excellence in (relatively!) old age.

Fitness levels begin to decrease, and more crucially for F1 drivers, reaction times begin to slow.

While the difference between reaction times of a 32-year-old and 37-year-old may not be as observable as those seen at latter stages of life, the distinction is still present and Hamilton’s crash into Fernando Alonso at Spa was a perfect example of the beginnings of a decline.

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Hamilton has always been renowned for his consistency and accuracy, but the Spa incident seemed to signal something quite different.

Hamilton’s seven-time championship companion Schumacher was also a similarly consistent driver, knowing just how far to push the car at the optimum times. He turned 35 ahead of the 2004 season, which of course he won, but not quite by the same margin and domination he had once seen.

Shanghai 2004 is a perfect case in point as the then six-time World Champion spun during qualifying, crashed on his way to the grid and had to start from the pit, before colliding with another driver, spinning in the race and finished 12th.

Now, Spa wasn’t quite the same catastrophe as Schumacher’s Shanghai debacle, but the mirroring of errors creeping in slowly but surely should not go unnoticed.

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To be clear, Hamilton shouldn’t be looking to hang up his racing boots anytime soon, however the Briton’s racing mentality may soon to have to shift to accept his middle-order fate.

On his radio, Fernando Alonso (understandably frustrated) said of Hamilton after the collision: “He only knows how to drive and start in first.”

Clearly this is not true, as Hamilton has more race wins starting further down the order than Alonso does in his career.

However, it does ring true to a degree - starting lower down the order with a car that is already superior to the others around it is different from starting down the order with a car that cannot compete where it once did.

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Hamilton may not be new to starting further down than pole position, but he has been used to doing so in a car he knew would soon overtake the others, quickly and efficiently, not one that will likely be stuck there.

He is obviously a legend of the sport, there is no doubt about this, but dominance changes and heroes must eventually realise the next great thing will be ushered into the spotlight.

And while Hamilton might hope to search for his eighth world title, he may soon realise his racing fate is too similar to another legend of the sport for that elusive eighth championship to ever be won.

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