Grand Prix d’Espagne – Mercedes- A Barcelone, Hamilton est-il redevenu Hamilton ?

There has been a lot of talk about “rebound” since the start of the 2022 season. With the new technical regulations putting ground effect at the center of single-seater performance, all teams have had to deal with cars that had/have tendency to pump. But the rebound in question here has nothing more human than that which concerns Lewis Hamilton in Barcelona. This may mark a turning point in the season of the seven-time world champion.

Despite his comeback, Hamilton still ceded some of his power to Russell

Only sixth in the drivers’ standings at the start of this Spanish Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton started this sixth Grand Prix of the season with a collision with Kevin Magnussen (Haas) in the first lap. Victim of a puncture in the front left wheel, the Briton, forced to go to the pits to change tires, ruined a daring bet, that of “medium” rubber on overheated asphalt.

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On its return to the track, the Mercedes with the number 44 is in 19th position and is almost a minute behind the leader, Charles Leclerc. In the next loop, Hamilton addresses his team with a message that may mark the low point in the Englishman’s descent into hell: “If I were you, I would save this engine”. Moment suspended. The “Hamiltonian” abyss: Round 4. Implicit request for abandonment, deposit of colors. The man who holds the record for victories in F1 with 103 successes, the one who has been undefeated on this circuit since 2017, crowned seven times world champion seems to have only one desire: to stop everything, get out of there and go home. him.

The enormity of the proposal is matched only by the speed of response from its race engineer, Peter Bonington aka “Bono”: “Lewis, we still think we can score points today, eighth or better.”

“You could have won this Grand Prix”

The time to say these words, and the discouragement vanished. Convinced or not, the Mercedes driver recovers and throws himself body and soul into an ascent which, even if it is not statistically the most remarkable of his career, could be likened to the return of a freediver to the surface. Lewis Hamilton will climb to fourth place. By sheer force of the wrist since the long-awaited safety car never showed up. Only a problem of engine overheating will force the Englishman to reduce the pace at the end of the race and give fourth place to Carlos Sainz with three short laps to go.

Fourteen places gained, and well beyond that, the feeling that a star is shining again. On the radio, as soon as the finish line is crossed, the message that the champion sends to his team is of an unprecedented positivism in 2022, giving pride of place to work that pays, to developments that have worked, “finally” , one would like to add. As the excellent manager that he is, Toto Wolff, the executive director of Mercedes, grabs the ball on the rebound and insists on the performance of his colt: “You could have won this Grand Prix”.

Indeed, 54 seconds behind coming out of the pits after his puncture, Hamilton had “only” 39 seconds of deficit on the race lead before his engine forced him to slow down. In fact, the abandonment of Leclerc allowed him to regain 14 seconds on the first place but no matter, the W13 was in the rhythm and the podium of his teammate Russell is there to confirm.

The “Hammertime”, next step?

Facing the microphones, the body language of the Briton was the opposite of that sported for months. Shoulders deployed, frank gaze towards his interlocutors, Lewis has almost become Hamilton again. The words used by the Mercedes driver give the feeling that the crossing of the desert is over: “I’m just so grateful to have been able to come back and grateful to the team for keeping their heads down and for all the amazing work to get us to these improvements.” To hear it, it’s a “God Save The Queen” that we expected to hear on the podium. But it is indeed the Dutch anthem that has sounded for the fourth time this season.

No, Lewis Hamilton did not win this Spanish Grand Prix and he is now 64 points behind Verstappen, the real winner at Montmelo. However, the 66 laps of this event gave the Englishman a future. In the short term, he can think of saving his season. In the long term, he can also imagine continuing his career, which would not have been bearable without playing leading roles. Will the first vintage 2022 “Hammertime” take place in the streets of Monaco?

If this is the case, we will have to remember this moment of bewilderment in Catalonia and this sublime reflex of “Bono” who, by refusing to lay down his arms, perhaps saved the season of one of the greatest pilots. of the history of the discipline. If Tom Cruise, currently in Cannes for the festival, makes a detour to Monaco this weekend, we have a hell of a script to sell him!

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