Criticism over 'bad guy' Hamilton's weaker performance is unjustified

11-05-2022 08:36 | Updated: 11-05-2022 09:31
by GPblog.com
Column
Criticism over 'bad guy' Hamilton's weaker performance is unjustified

Lewis Hamilton is one of the best drivers to ever grace Formula 1, but is unliked by many his talents are often questioned in the comments. It's common to see people state that Hamilton was in a dominant car for almost a decade, which is true but F1 is about teamwork. Now that Hamilton is struggling in the midfield, there are more negative reviews of his ability and performance, but they are not justified.

Verstappen's rival

For the Dutch F1 fan and other fans around the world, Hamilton is the ultimate "bad guy". Verstappen is the protagonist in the Dutch F1 movie, who has to take on the Brit supported by the British media and his supersonic car. This image was created right from Verstappen's debut, as the so-called experts were quick to proclaim that Verstappen would win in that Mercedes back then too.

It is therefore not surprising that in the Netherlands, and people who saw Verstappen as the protagonist, there is now some laughter about Mercedes and Hamilton. Now that he doesn't have such a good car anymore and he finishes a few times behind George Russell, it is clear to some that he won all those titles because of his fast car.

Let's first say that no driver becomes a world champion in a bad car. Max Verstappen also had a good car in 2021, only he was not (yet) lucky enough to have the best car on the grid eight years in a row. Hamilton did have that luck, but then you have to take advantage of it and perform year after year.

Hamilton is no gimme

That Hamilton now suddenly could do nothing is of course nonsense. At the end of 2021, he still showed what a phenomenal talent he is. Of course, Verstappen fans will think differently, but Hamilton ensured, for example with a beautiful race in Brazil and a strong qualifying in Saudi Arabia, that the world title remained exciting until the last race. In fact, if Nicholas Latifi had not crashed then Hamilton would have taken his eighth world title.

It is therefore unlikely that Hamilton would not be up to the task a few months later. That he is struggling, however, was predictable before the season. With a good car, nothing would have been wrong, but with an inferior car, it would always be a deception for Hamilton. He already just missed out on the title in 2021 and has to deal with the disappointment of not becoming champion in 2022.

The arrival of Russell

Russell is a great talent, but more importantly, is without pressure. All he has to do is finish ahead of Hamilton. If he doesn't, no one will be surprised, but if he does, he will beat a seven-time world champion. Russell can never go wrong and that explains his relaxed attitude.

The young Briton has all the time and doesn't have to worry about the car's inferior performance. That will come in time. Hamilton, however, does not have long left in the sport and will do everything in his power to make the car better. Besides the fact that his teammate finished ahead of him several times, those performances of the W13 also gnaw at Hamilton's confidence.

With all these circumstances in mind, a less performing Hamilton would therefore not be very crazy and the criticism would be a bit premature. However, the criticism would be totally premature if you would really look into the first five races, and not, like most, only at the points and the finishing order of the last race.

Lewis is not performing that badly

The simple fact is that Hamilton out-qualified Russell three times in the first five qualifying sessions. He lost (painfully) in Saudi Arabia by not even getting into Q2 and in Imola. Those two stood out, but the three qualifying wins for Hamilton did not. Also, the fact that he was on average two tenths faster over four qualifying sessions (the one in Imola does not count due to changing track conditions) is not mentioned by anyone.

In the race duel, you can lean towards Russell, but that's not entirely fair either. Russell finished ahead of Hamilton four times on Sunday, but people forget that the second Mercedes driver was twice lucky with a safety car. In Australia and Miami, Hamilton was ahead of his teammate and also simply better that weekend, but a safety car helped Russell get a free pit stop and gain ground. In Australia, this put him on the podium and in Miami, on the medium tyre, he was able to attack Hamilton after a lousy weekend.

So with those two races in mind, it could also have been 3-2 in Hamilton's favour, and the current 4-1 doesn't tell the whole story. In that respect, the points are also an empty reflection because as the third team on the grid, you also have to hope for dropouts in front of you to score more points.

I understand where the cynicism in the Netherlands comes from. For years Hamilton has been portrayed as the 'bad guy' and in the eyes of many people, he now gets what he deserves. However, it is important to keep looking at the performance honestly and to judge it as such. Yes, Hamilton is struggling with Russell and that was to be expected given the circumstances, but no, Hamilton is not suddenly a driver who can't do anything anymore. He is still the seven-time world champion and he didn't become that just because he was in the best car.

This article was originally written by Tim Kraaij for the Dutch edition of GPblog

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