Lewis Hamilton is a polarizing Formula 1 driver.
His most passionate fans will rave about his incredibly aggressive driving. On the other hand, his harshest critics will consistently point out that he was carried by the great cars McLaren and Mercedes put on the grid.
Regardless of what people think, he’s still widely considered one of the best drivers to grace the F1 paddock. The fact that he’s still a great driver at 38 is a testament to his fantastic driving talent.
However, Mercedes’ most recent showings place Hamilton in an unfamiliar situation. The German manufacturer’s cars have been disappointing this season, and the gulf in quality shows in their performances in 2022.
Before the Bahrain Grand Prix, it was difficult imagining the 38-year-old Brit donning anything other than a Mercedes race suit. However, the man in question made a bold claim that could radically transform the pro motorsport scene.
Lewis Hamilton is a Ferrari fan.
A great car has been one of the reasons why Mercedes performed well over the season. Toto Wolff did a fantastic job leading the team to engineer bullets that can cut through tracks for much of the 2010s.
However, this decade hasn’t been kind to the F1 giants. The 2020 season ended with another win for Hamilton and Mercedes, but 2021 saw Red Bull find the winning formula to maximize their car’s performance. This saw Max Verstappen’s position in the Driver’s Championship pecking order shoot up and put on one of the most entertaining rivalries in recent memory.
Verstappen came out of the duel on top, winning his first World Drivers’ Championship as a result. Hamilton and Mercedes spent the following season trying to return to their winning ways.
However, what resulted was a disappointing car for the Silver Arrows. It was clear to everyone that Mercedes had a terrible car by the Australian Grand Prix. They tried everything they could to bring the car to their high standards, but the Drivers and Constructors titles were long gone by the time they saw progress.
The season also became historic to Hamilton for one wrong reason: it was the first time in his career that he didn’t win a single race in the calendar.
Mercedes did plenty of tinkering in the offseason to avoid a similar fate this season. Unfortunately, some of the more prominent voices within the team believed their pre-season testing wasn’t enough to iron out any issues the car may have.
Their doubts were proven correct as they struggled to hit the ground running. After Fernando Alonso put up incredible numbers for Aston Martin in qualifying, Hamilton was seventh in the grid. George Russell finished slightly above him in sixth.
The race didn’t go as well for Hamilton. He managed to keep up in the race’s opening laps, but Alonso eventually showed the difference in their cars in an exciting overtake in the 38th lap.
The second-oldest driver in the F1 grid would have finished sixth if Charles Leclerc didn’t have to retire due to engine failure.
Mercedes’ struggles in Bahrain make one thing clear: they’re in no shape to contend against Red Bull for this year’s championship. It’s beginning to look like a repeat of last season, where they must catch up to an already-untouchable Red Bull Racing team.
Hamilton was very vocal about his disappointment with the German manufacturers, even claiming he understands what a car needs to go faster. He believed the team’s engineers didn’t consider his pointers when creating the W14.
His outbursts didn’t go unnoticed, as his team immediately penned an open letter about the situation. Mercedes relayed their disappointment with how their season started and are turning every stone to find the correct remedy to their slow pace.
While they assured the public that there would be no knee-jerk reactions, it’s understood that technical director Mike Elliott is in the hot seat. If they don’t manage to turn things around, he’s probably the first to be shown the door.
This also makes the uncertainty of Hamilton’s future all the more uncertain. The Brit still hasn’t signed an extension with Mercedes, and he could easily pack his bags if he thinks Mercedes cannot field a winning car this season.
If Hamilton decides to ditch Mercedes at the end of his contract, almost everyone on the paddock will move heaven and earth to sign him. However, he’s made it clear that driving for Ferrari is a particularly big dream of his.
The former McLaren driver said he always looked for an opportunity to drive for the Prancing Horse. However, he also pointed out that the stars never aligned for him to get to race for such a historic F1 team.
He may get to fulfill his dream as Ferrari may need to look for another driver sooner than later.
Ferrari was full of confidence coming into the 2023 campaign. Under the leadership of new team principal Fred Vasseur, their pre-season testing numbers were nothing short of spectacular. Many thought they’d be giving Red Bull a run for their money.
However, not one Ferrari driver was on the podium in Bahrain. Sainz finished at P4, while Leclerc was left on the sidelines with a DNF. Leclerc is reportedly fuming at the team’s performances after one F1 race and has written to the board about his issues.
Their on-track performance in Bahrain isn’t the only red flag for Hamilton. There are talks of Vasseur’s frustration with his situation within the Ferrari organization. There are also reports of key personnel leaving the team for other positions.
If Hamilton does decide to leave for Ferrari, it may be akin to exchanging one lemon car for another. However, Scuderia Ferrari still has a better car than Mercedes. If they fix their reliability issues within the following Grands Prix, they will become the most popular destination for the Brit.
It’s a rough start to the 2023 campaign for the Silver Arrows, but the season is long. As long as they can show Lewis Hamilton that they’re still a top team that can help him reach his eighth championship, there’s no reason why he wouldn’t re-sign for at least one more season.
However, things are looking bleak for Hamilton’s relationship with Mercedes. And if he does decide to don red, the Formula 1 paddock will never be the same again.
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