Schumacher record unattainable: Lewis Hamilton abandons season goal after humiliation

13th place in qualifying, 14th place in the sprint, 13th place in the race – the weekend in Imola is a low point for Formula 1 record world champion Lewis Hamilton. Consequently depressed, the Mercedes driver says goodbye to his big goal for 2022 – and is still confident.

The big showing on the 39th inning already made it clear how miserable it is for Lewis Hamilton at the moment. At this point, the international Formula 1 executives decided to show the gap between the record-breaking world champion in Mercedes and Max Verstappen, the reigning champion. After all, the cars of the two exceptional drivers were close to each other at the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari in Imola. However, only because Verstappen was already preparing to round Hamilton after about two-thirds of Emilia-Romagna’s Grand Prix.

He was more than 77 seconds behind, with lap times of about 80 seconds. A little later, the marshals waved blue flags for the Briton: please make room and let a faster car pass. The humiliation followed on lap 41, when Hamilton visibly lifted the accelerator on the start goal just to let the excellent man from the three Imola days pass by in Verstappen. While he himself was eventually ranked 13th and summed up his impressions of the season’s fourth race weekend: “I have nothing to do with the world championship this year, that’s for sure.”

World Cup standings after the 4th of 23 races

1. Charles Leclerc – Ferrari – 86 points
2. Max Verstappen – Red Bull – 59
3. Sergio Perez – Red Bull – 54
4.George Russell-Mercedes-49
Carlos Sainz – Ferrari – 38
6. Lando Norris – McLaren – 35
7.Lewis Hamilton-Mercedes-28
Valtteri Bottas – Alfa Romeo – 24

14. Sebastian Vettel – Aston Martin – 4
19. Mick Schumacher – Haas – 0
20. Nico Hulkenberg – Aston Martin – 0

Even though Hamilton only formulated what the interested public and almost certainly he himself knew for a long time: It must have been a painful admission. It’s not up for debate at all, the 37-year-old said he could still pose a threat to World Cup leader Charles Leclerc. It revealed the Grand Prix on the traditional 4,909-kilometer circuit in northern Italy once again relentlessly. Team leader Toto Wolff even apologized to his pilot over the radio, describing the Mercedes as “impassable” and the race as “terrible”.

The problem can only be solved on the court

There is no internal guilt, Wolff said over the weekend in an interview with RTL / ntv. “What’s there is ‘Tough Love’, we put our fingers in where it hurts. We also analyze relentlessly when we have done something wrong,” said the Austrian. A scene where he and Hamilton apparently collided in the Mercedes pits after qualifying is more likely to be an expression of frustration at having crashed after years of unique success and eight designer titles in a row. The W13, which was completely redesigned as part of the rule changes, is currently mediocre at best, the distance to Ferrari and Red Bull enormous.

In Imola, Hamilton again lacked top speed, over 40 laps he was unable to overtake Pierre Gasly in Alpha Tauri. “A weekend to forget” summed up the seven-time world champion after finding himself at the end of the midfield with places 13 (qualifying), 14 (sprint) and 13 (running). No car jumps as noticeably as the Mercedes due to the airflow tearing the undercarriage off – George Russell reported upper body pain in Imola due to the hard ups and downs. Wolff even told RTL / ntv that the jump was so violent, “that the drivers need an osteopath to get everything back in order”.

Much more than one second per second is missing. turn to the top – and solving the problem seems complicated. It “is much harder to correct than we could have imagined,” Hamilton said. To make matters worse, this basic problem with the car cannot be reproduced in the wind tunnel. Mercedes is therefore only left to travel to the race weekend with solutions and to test in the training sessions whether the hoped-for improvement occurs. The upper budget framework introduced last year also means that any investment must be carefully considered, otherwise there will be no funds elsewhere.

“Painful”, but successful?

For Hamilton, this means in the first place that after this season he shares the title as record world champion with Michael Schumacher. In fact, the 37-year-old wanted to reach the eighth triumph, which statistically would finally make him the most successful driver in motorsport’s first class. It is the last major record for the former Ferrari hero that Hamilton had not yet surpassed. Victories, pole positions, podium finishes, the Briton tops the rankings everywhere. His contract with Mercedes is valid until 2023, and Hamilton resolutely countered rumors of an early departure.

“Just because we are not having it easy at the moment, I am not throwing everything away,” said the Briton, who has celebrated at least one victory in each of his 15 Formula 1 seasons, also a record. The fact that he remains unsuccessful in his 16th year is not an option for him, despite the chance for his eighth world title already written off. The scandalous defeat in the season finale in 2021, when Verstappen passed on the final lap of the last race, should still have too much of an impact.

A defeat Hamilton does not want to let sit. The chances of the otherwise successful Brit ending his contract ahead of time are similarly low. Even though the current situation is “painful” – and the road back to the top will require a lot of effort and a lot of patience.

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