Abu Dhabi Grand Prix | Betrayed by Mercedes in qualifying, Lewis Hamilton will aim for his first victory rather than the 104th

He was surely hoping deep down to prolong his years of pole position. It had been going on since his arrival in Formula 1 in 2007. His record streak ended on Saturday in Abu Dhabi on 15 consecutive campaigns with at least one distinction in the exercise of the single lap.

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It is not a drama in itself, nor even a disappointment. He had time to see it coming this season. This record already belonged to him and it will remain his property for the next seven years. Max Verstappen started his own series in 2016. The Dutchman is seven seasons in top positions and we will see in eight years if the Briton has to give him his record. Or before.

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On the Yas Marina circuit, Lewis Hamilton deluded during free practice 1 on Friday. By relatively warm weather conditions that his W13 likes, but unrelated to the renewed freshness that would accompany the qualifying hour, Saturday early evening, Saturday, or the race, Sunday. In the absence of Max Verstappen, whose seat was occupied by Red Bull hopeful Liam Lawson, the seven-time world champion had the upper hand. And stopped dreaming on Saturday.

“We didn’t do the job well”

Even after setting the fastest time in sector 1 of the Emirati track, attacking his decisive lap in Q3, he probably did not believe it. He had no reason for it, and he explained why.

“We came here expecting it to be difficult, but we didn’t expect a 0.8 gap from pole position.he confessed. We lost 0.6 on the straights to the top cars. I gave it my all, so it’s a bit of a surprise result and to be so far behind Red Bull and Ferrari.”

“We didn’t do the job well, we regressed in terms of performance while our rivals progressedadmitted Toto Wolff, the team principal. We went with a higher level of downforce and a higher level of drag, and we were just too slow on the straights. We also had some brake issues that we need to investigate. The weekend had started well, but we didn’t succeed in qualifying.”

Lewis Hamilton and George Russell (Mercedes)at the 2022 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Credit: Getty Images

A double demotion for Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton, on an upward slope these last three Grands Prix, believed in it and came out stunned from the experience. Not only has he failed to achieve pole position this season, but his best seasonal result remains third place in qualifying, in Singapore and Mexico City. Another sad first for him and a low point, for sure. Eight times since his debut with McLaren, he had achieved the most pole positions in the season.

For him, it’s even a double demotion since he is no longer even the undisputed reference in his own garage. For the second time, his teammate brought back more poles than him. Of course, it was played with one unit, but George Russell, author of the tour of his life in Hungary, can boast of having succeeded in succeeding Nico Rosberg in 2014.

Of course, the record of his duels against George Russell is there to reassure him. He won 13 to 9 his first confrontation with his young teammate. But for the rest, he will not regret seeing his W13 go to the museum on Sunday. And probably not in a good place, even if the Mercedes of 2012 had only signed a pole position and won only once, with Nico Rosberg.

Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) at the 2022 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Credit: Getty Images

Save what can be

Far from the heat and altitude of Sao Paulo, the Mercedes n°44 suffered, too much behind to panic the clock. “There are also bounces on this track, which adds to our lack of performance and the temperature variation problems on the brakes that we have had throughout the season”, he explained. The problem was evident as soon as he entered the track in Q1. “The whole team is working hard and doing an amazing job to resolve these issues, especially for next year. I’m looking at tomorrow and the last race of the season!”he added.

Sunday, he will try one last time to save what can be saved. Winning for the 104th time and the first this season, sharing the honors with George Russell, victorious in Brazil. He is not obsessed with it, and you have to believe it, according to Toto Wolff. “He told me it was not important for him to win every year”blew the boss of the Grays, in the paddock of Abu Dhabi.

The most important thing for Lewis Hamilton is perhaps indeed to look to the future with confidence, since at 37 he sees himself stacked up for several years. With confidence and loyalty, he who will compete in his 200th race on Sunday with the same manufacturer, which no one can boast of.

Overtaking Ferrari

With two Red Bulls and two Ferraris ahead of him at the start, Lewis Hamilton will have a hard time thwarting the forecasts and sporting logic. But he is well placed to know that in Abu Dhabi, there are not necessarily any. With a victory and a fastest lap in the race, he can still beat his teammate George Russell on the wire, provided that the latter does not finish in the top 10, but let’s face it, it’s quite unlikely.

For the third time in his career, after 2012 at McLaren with Jenson Button and 2014 at Mercedes with Nico Rosberg, he will therefore end up as the “second driver” of his team. With all the language precautions that entails, the subjectivity and caricatural brutality of the figures.

There is still one final goal, collective and more accessible than the others, which would delight him because it would testify to the recovery made this year by the Brackley plant. Mercedes can dislodge Ferrari from second place in the constructors’ world championship, provided they score 19 points more than the Reds. Not impossible, but it will go through two finishes in the top 5, and a defeat from Maranello. Disappointed too, George Russell is not convinced but he will try. “I expect Red Bull to be out of reach, but hopefully we can chase Ferrari”says the winner of the Sao Paulo Grand Prix.

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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Abu Dhabi Grand Prix | Betrayed by Mercedes in qualifying, Lewis Hamilton will aim for his first victory rather than the 104th