Montreal offers many happy memories for Lewis Hamilton.
Circuit Gilles Villeneuve was the scene of his first Formula One Grand Prix win, as well as his first pole position since his rookie year at McLaren in 2007.
The victories have piled up in Canada since then, seven in total. In Great Britain and Hungary alone he has triumphed more with eight victories and has raced at Silverstone and the Hungaroring three more times than his 12 visits to the man-made island in the St. Lawrence River.
Lewis Hamilton celebrates winning his first race at the 2007 Canadian Grand Prix
Simple math tells us that when Hamilton arrives in Canada, he will most likely walk away with a winner’s trophy, however this year he will probably be very lucky just to get a top three finish.
As recently as Sunday it may have been considered unlikely that he would even start the race due to a back injury and that sums up what is turning into a nightmarish season for the seven-time world champion.
Never mind not winning in Canada, such is the 37-year-old’s downfall in fortune that there are now concerns that, for the first time in his Formula One career, he could go an entire year without a race win.
This was meant to be the year that Hamilton ended the bitter disappointment of his controversial last lap title loss to Max Verstappen in Abu Dhabi last year by claiming a record eighth world championship.
Hamilton has won a race in every Grand Prix season since then but is fighting for wins in 2022.
Those hopes already seemed dashed, with Hamilton sitting 88 points behind Verstappen, whose Red Bull team appears to be the class of the field.
But is there any hope that Hamilton will somehow continue his streak of landing on the top step of the podium this year?
Based on the evidence from 2022, it doesn’t look good. Not only does he no longer have the best car, but this year’s Mercedes also looks like one of the most difficult cars on the grid to drive. Even when a sweet spot is found in the set-up, it is simply no match for Red Bull and, to a large extent, Ferrari.
All eight races have been won by Red Bull or Charles Leclerc for the Maranello team and Mercedes hasn’t had the slightest idea of getting close to them.
Regardless of race wins, though, Hamilton needs to beat his teammate first, something he hasn’t done since the season-opening race when he took third after a dramatic double retirement from Red Bull late in the season. race.
The Briton hasn’t even been on the podium since finishing third in the opening race in Bahrain.
In the last seven races, Hamilton has finished behind his new Mercedes team-mate George Russell.
Since Sakhir, George Russell has gone on to beat his fellow Brit in the ensuing seven races, scoring three podium finishes and establishing a rather worrying 37-point lead over Hamilton in the process from a veteran’s point of view.
Russell is new to the team after arriving from Williams earlier in 2022 to replace Valtteri Bottas, who in his five years as Hamilton’s teammate had been chewed up and spat out as a competitive threat, even if the two enjoyed a relationship. harmonious. .
Russell, however, has upset the balance and the 24-year-old is now a serious threat to Hamilton, who is unlikely to improve so late in his career as he approaches the wrong side of 40.
Even if Mercedes finds a sudden solution to their car’s lack of pace, it looks like Hamilton is now also facing one of the toughest team-mate battles he has had in his career.
Mercedes’ woes offer a mix of frustration and light at the end of the tunnel, though right now it’s all first for Hamilton.
Hamilton has suffered with the bounce-back phenomenon caused by porpoises in his Mercedes
A highly experimental approach to designing a new car for the new rules and regulations for 2022 led Mercedes to a unique ‘no side pod’ design and appears to have gotten them into all sorts of trouble.
While most cars on the grid have had to deal with porpoises, no team is suffering more than Mercedes from the phenomenon that sees the car violently bounce up and down with up to six times the force of gravity when the car reaches high speeds on a straight. .
It is exactly this problem that led to Hamilton barely getting out of his cockpit after his fourth-place finish at Sunday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix, after complaining of back problems.
Mercedes may increase the car’s ride height to combat this, but Silver Arrows hopes the FIA will force all teams to increase theirs as well due to the negative impact it will have on lap time.
Hamilton will be relieved to have heard F1 bosses promise on Thursday that they will remove porpoises on the advice of their medical teams.
A statement from F1’s governing body, released ahead of this weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix, said: “The FIA, as the sport’s governing body, has decided that, in the interests of safety, it is necessary to intervene to require that teams make the necessary adjustments to reduce or eliminate this phenomenon [of porpoising].
“The FIA has decided to intervene after consultation with their doctors in the interest of the drivers’ safety.”
The team may even find a solution for it, and if they do, it could be the magic bullet that shoots them back into contention for race wins.
He has sustained back injuries when he was helped out of his car after the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
Sound unrealistic? In 2009, as defending world champion, Hamilton spent the first half of the season struggling near the back, even being the second-slowest car at Silverstone during qualifying, before winning the Hungarian Grand Prix two races later due to the major upgrades to your McLaren.
Such upgrades are restricted this term in theory due to a budget cap, but Hamilton is driving the third-best car on the grid and not one of the worst. The point is: dramatic improvements can be found.
But even if there are no performance gains for the car, there are other ways Hamilton could get a win before the end of the season.
Grands Prix are prone to weird random races where chaos reigns and an unlikely winner emerges and this tends to happen during a wet race.
Hamilton has been supreme in wet conditions, winning his seventh title in Turkey in 2020
Take a step forward in the ultimate rain master. Hamilton has been showing off his excellent wet driving throughout his career and it was in Turkey in 2020 where, in very slippery conditions on a wet track, he took a famous win along with his seventh world championship, or last year in Russia when A late downpour saw him emerge from the carnage with the winner’s trophy.
Granted, Monaco was wet this season and ended up stuck behind old rival Fernando Alonso for much of the race on his way to eighth place, but the streets of Monte Carlo may be unique in this regard.
He was also off the pace at Imola on a wet track, but again his pace was massively masked as he was stuck behind Pierre Gasly for much of the race in 13th.
Admittedly, these are situations he could have avoided if he had qualified better, but they shouldn’t be used as arguments against how talented he can be at wet weather driving.
But in the changeable conditions at Imola this year, he got stuck behind Pierre Gasly (above)
It doesn’t even need to be wet either. One of Hamilton’s best performances this season came in Spain when, after being eliminated through no fault of his own at the start, he came from the back of the grid and took a superb fifth place, beating Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz in the process.
Mercedes is hoping that when they can get the troublesome W13 working they can offer Ferrari a fight, but what about Red Bull?
Never rule out the possibility of retirements or strange safety cars. Of course this means relying on luck, but a win is a win and given the questionable reliability of Red Bull and Ferrari, who had a double DNF last time out in Azerbaijan, Mercedes, as the third-best team, is best placed to skip. Even a well-timed safety car could play into Hamilton’s hands and all he needs is one chance.
Remember, Alpine’s Esteban Ocon won last year’s Hungarian Grand Prix in the fifth-best car, while the previous two races at Monza in Italy have seen teams outside the top two teams claim success.
It looks bleak for Hamilton in what is one of, if not the, most difficult seasons of his career, but given his talent and the curious way a season or even a race can fall into a driver’s lap, it simply cannot be ruled out. he was standing on the top step this year at the moment.