Lewis Hamilton is a driver who comes through unfiltered. He can’t – or won’t – mask his emotions. They play out in raw form across his face (and over the team radio) whether he wins or loses.
Early on this season there were those who would write him off as a spent force – prematurely, as it turns out, and based on fundamental misunderstandings of both the man himself and how top-level motor racing works. Post-Imola, the twittering twonks of the tabloid press (and their ilk) were calling on him to retire while the going was good; an easy statement to make when you’ve never had to launch a Formula 1 car off the wet side of a grid when the other side is dry…
Andrew Benson had compiled and filed his excellent analysis of where Lewis is and his ongoing importance to Mercedes (p30), when driver and team delivered an emphatic confirmation of it. At Zandvoort Lewis had an outside chance of winning the race, albeit based on the risky proposition of him not pitting for fresh tyres while the course was neutralised. In the moment Lewis was frustrated, thinking the team had called it wrong. Actually it was backing him to perform his unique magic. Pitting both Lewis and George Russell at that point was likely to screw both their races, explained team boss Toto Wolff. And if anyone can make the most of defending track position on old tyres, it’s Lewis Hamilton.
What the Dutch Grand Prix proved beyond doubt was that Lewis is as motivated, ambitious and hungry as ever, and that Mercedes needs him almost as never before.
Another hot topic playing out tiresomely in the court of public opinion is, post-Monza, whether races should be permitted to end under Safety Car conditions. It’s a debate which will never reach a satisfactory conclusion, since whatever so-called solution is found will almost inevitably produce new and similarly dissatisfactory scenarios.
There’s no doubt races should, ideally, finish competitively rather than as a neutralised procession. This is a discussion which has already been had, in the wake of the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix debacle – and the teams couldn’t agree on a solution. It’s therefore highly disingenuous for the leaders of these teams to now heap ordure on the FIA for following its own procedures when, offered the opportunity to shape a new alternative, these individuals fell to their usual footling mutual bickering.
Is red-flagging races under these circumstances the right solution? After all, in Monza Max Verstappen had a new set of softs available (which he fitted under the Safety Car) while Charles Leclerc only had a used set. A restart would just have opened the door to more complaints and spurious cant.