What a winless Hamilton season won’t tell you about his 2022

Lewis Hamilton came closer than ever to winning a Formula 1 race in 2022 in the United States Grand Prix, which may have also been his best chance to do so.

Hamilton is on the brink of a winless season for the first time in his F1 career, and a rare championship defeat to a team-mate as well.

The bare facts will tell a story of relative mediocrity for a seven-time world champion. And there are some moments that have fallen notably short of his high standards: qualifying in Saudi Arabia, crashing into Fernando Alonso in Belgium, and a messy race in Singapore.

But what those same facts will not show are the lion’s share of the experiments he undertook in the first part of the season when the Mercedes was at its weakest, the occasional circumstances out of his control that blighted qualifying sessions or races, the fact he has been the quicker Mercedes driver for the bulk of the season now, or the work behind the scenes to ensure that the team improves.

“We’ve not given them the car that they need to fight and particularly for Lewis, a seven-time world champion, to not have been in that position, to be winning races every weekend and fighting for championships has been hard,” Mercedes technical director Mike Elliott said recently.

“I think Lewis pushes the team. He does a really good job of giving us feedback. He works really hard.

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“His work ethic has not changed at all this year. He’s here, late in the evenings, working with us, trying to get the most from the car and I think that’s just an encouragement to everybody else in the team to see the input he’s putting in.

“Lewis also spoke to the factory probably nearly two weeks ago and stood up and spoke to them and he was brilliant.

“I guess what you expect from a character like Lewis: properly leading, properly bringing energy to the team. That’s what we need going into the difficult winter.”

Hamilton’s work ethic has long been an underrated part of his make-up, especially as his run of success in the turbo-hybrid era painted a picture of a driver who could afford to just turn up, drive, and go home.

But character is forged in adversity, and Mercedes has often talked about the biggest lessons being learned on its bad days. In times of hardship, Hamilton has not been able to contribute the swathes of wins that Mercedes has been used to. But his worth to the team has been clear in other ways.

“His development as a human being is unbelievable,” said Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff in Austin.

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“Driving the car, we are all seeing what he’s capable of doing. But on the other side, how he develops to support the team in our tough days, that has really had a tremendous impact.

“Because when we are down normally it’s the driver who is really dragging everybody down. But in our case it was the opposite.

“He came back into the engineering room whether he had a bad race or we really screwed up with the strategy and has been picking up the people.

“In the past you would call drivers contractors – they come, get the paycheck, they leave, go to the next place. Like footballers.

“But in our case there is no contractor anymore. This is a driver who is part of the team, is like all the other team members and respects the collective input.

“It’s fantastic to see that development.”

Focusing on Hamilton’s off-track contribution would make it sound like there is little to praise on-track, though. And this is not the case.

While the first third of the season was a mixed bag, there is a clear turning point: the British GP. Though he had a good result in Canada, the consensus is that Silverstone is where Mercedes, having worked out the underlying issue with its car, abandoned the experiments that Hamilton often tried to little success.

And the before-and-after contrast is stark. Not just with his own numbers but against Russell’s.


Races 1-9 Races 10-19
Average grid 7.8 4.9
Average finish 6.2 3.9
Points per race 9.6 13.4


Races 1-9 Races 10-19
Average grid 7.4 4.9
Average finish 4 5.1
Points per race 12.3 13.4

The fact is that Hamilton has been consistently the stronger Mercedes driver in the second half of the season. It may not be by a huge amount but the trend is clear. And though this is to be expected given his experience relative to Russell, it is also something that some either choose not to recognise or simply have not noticed.

As Russell has admitted, he is not in a good spell at the moment. But he still deserves credit for the consistency that has underpinned an impressive maiden season with Mercedes.

His points-per-race record since Britain (where he recorded a DNF) is identical to Hamilton’s and an improvement on his first nine races, although his average finishing position has dipped. Hamilton has re-established himself as the on-track team leader again.

Circumstances (admittedly including Hamilton’s Spa blunder and wasted opportunity in Singapore) are to blame for that not translating into a better championship position. With a cleaner season he would probably be beating both Russell and Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz in the championship.

Hamilton says that things like his ‘won a race in every season’ statistic do not matter, and it will not kill him if that record disappears come the end of the 2022 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, as looks likely. He will also likely shrug off a defeat to Russell in the championship.

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What’s of greater significance is that for all the noise early in the year about Russell showing him the way, and suggestions Hamilton was past it, he has proven he still has the required ability and motivation at 37 years old, even towards the end of his most chastening season since 2009 (and this is worse than that year in many ways).

The bare facts of his season won’t tell you this, but Hamilton’s had a good year. And done a lot to ensure that 2023 is better.

“Even though we’ve not had a win, so far, I think it’s been the teamwork, it’s been the team spirit that’s stayed strong and intact,” he said, when asked by The Race what he takes pride in from a season without a headline result like a victory.

“It’s the challenges, the tough conversations we’ve had. We’ve really had to dig deep, pulling together more than ever, especially after a difficult end of season last year.

“With all the challenges that we’ve faced this year, I take a lot of pride in the steps that finally got Mission 44 up and running, what we’re now starting to see and have real impact. That’s something I’m really proud of.

“And then just to be…I’m still here, at the end of the season. Still really, really proud of the performance, collectively as a team.

“Through the year, we’ve made all the mistakes we’ve needed to make, I think, to build a stronger foundation for next year.

“If we can get that car on par with these guys [Red Bull and Ferrari] I think we could have a really exciting year next year.”

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