Lewis Hamilton Still Expects Championships
Lewis Hamilton needs no introduction. He has a record-tying seven Formula 1 championships, a record 103 wins, and a record 103 poles. If you have made it to this preview, the odds are that you are already very familiar with Hamilton's record and reputation. You probably also know that 2022 did not exactly go to plan for either Lewis Hamilton or his Mercedes team.
This is the eighteenth installment of our driver-by-driver preview of the 2022 Formula 1 season. This weekend, we are covering Mercedes AMG F1. You can find the rest of our previews here.
Hamilton's finish of sixth in last year's championship was the worst of his career. Despite nine podium finishes, he did not win a race in a season for the first time in his entire career. It was an excellent season for most drivers, but for Hamilton it was nothing short of a disappointment. 2023 will be about getting back to his standard.
HOW HE GOT HERE
Hamilton's path to Formula 1 is the sort of thing racing teams dream about. He was brought into the fold at McLaren as a karting prospect at a very young age. Immediate success led him to cars fairly quickly, culminating in him winning the second-ever GP2 championship as a rookie in 2006. McLaren promoted him to their senior Formula 1 team immediately.
His legend began immediately. Hamilton scored podiums in his first nine career races, culminating in his first career pole and win at the 2007 Canadian Grand Prix. He'd go on to win four times that year, enough for him to tie with superstar teammate Fernando Alonso in the driver's standings and leaving him just one point shy of taking a world championship as a rookie.
He took the championship the year afterward instead.
McLaren was not nearly so fast over the next four seasons, so Hamilton instead bounced between fourth and fifth before taking a deal with the then-upstart Mercedes AMG F1 team in 2013. It was a shocking decision, but one of the greatest in the history of the sport; while McLaren struggled to score two podiums over the next seven years, Hamilton set the world on fire.
You know the rest: Six more championships, 77 more poles, 82 more wins. Hamilton is now the winningest driver in F1 history, the driver with the most poles in F1 history, and tied with Michael Schumacher as the driver with the most championships in F1 history. There is nothing left for him to do on track to prove his greatness, all arguments that anyone else could possibly the greatest Formula 1 driver ever are down to semantics and storytelling.
HOW 2022 WENT
Lewis Hamilton did not live up to that standard last year. He was excellent in a struggling car, but the Mercedes W13 was simply not competitive through the first half of 2022 and incapable of fighting for wins with Red Bull until the final races of the season. The team put together a winning effort just once, a race his teammate George Russell closed out for his first career victory in Brazil.
Nine podiums and sixth in the championship would mark a career year for the majority of the drivers on the 2023 field. For Hamilton, it was a disaster.
GOALS FOR 2023
But that disaster ended with some encouraging signs. Hamilton fought with the leaders on a few occasions, and his drives through the field in both the sprint and feature races at the Brazilian Grand Prix proved that he could still make waves with a winning car. A stretch of three straight runner-up finishes in the last four races of 2022 showed that Mercedes had figured something out with its W13 and its sidepod-minimalist approach to car design.
With a full offseason under their belt since, a Mercedes team still expecting championships every season has been given another four months to build those lessons into their next car, the W14. Despite last year's struggles, the expectation is still that Mercedes will once again be at least equal with with Red Bull and Hamilton will 0nce again be able to fight with Max Verstappen on track for wins and championships. Anything less than that, including a mere multi-win season without a shot at a title, would be a disappointment.
A SUCCESSFUL SEASON LOOKS LIKE...
If you are Lewis Hamilton and you are still at Mercedes AMG F1, a successful season is one in which you win the driver's and constructor's championship. This is the standard for both Hamilton and Verstappen heading into every single season of their careers until either a team or driver falls off their expected pace significantly.
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