Formula 1 – Mercedes: Hamilton first on the ground, then on top

Lewis Hamilton on the ground: After second place in the heated battle at the French GP, the Mercedes driver first lay down in the room before the podium ceremony. While teammate George Russell looks puzzled and winner Max Verstappen almost has to step over Hamilton, the Briton explains: “It was a pretty tough race because my drinking bottle didn’t work.”

In the summer heat on the French plateau with track temperatures well over 50 degrees, the Grand Prix in Le Castellet is no picnic – and reason enough for Hamilton to make an exception. Because he reveals: “Normally I never drink anything at the race anyway. It was the first time that I tried it this year. And promptly nothing comes out.”

The hardships for Formula 1 drivers in hot races should not be underestimated: “You probably lose (through sweating; ed.) around three kilos in a race like this,” Hamilton calculates: “I feel a bit dehydrated, so I’m really looking forward to a drink or two.”

Even if it is not enough for first place in Le Castellet, the numbers of the serial winner of the last years read unbelievably: Hamilton is on the podium for the 187th time on Sunday, he has 103 wins and poles on the way to his seven world championship Winning titles, i.e. winning more than a third of all contested races.

Lewis Hamilton celebrates his 300th GP start in France

The current form check is much more important for Hamilton than the past records – and it is positive for Mercedes in France: For the first time in the difficult 2022 season, the Silver Arrows get a double podium, because teammate Russell is third behind Hamilton.
“I’m so proud of the team, it’s an incredible result,” enthuses Hamilton and explains: “To win races, it’s about the whole package and we know that we don’t yet have the pace of the two teams in front (Red Bull and Ferrari; ed.) But durability is also a big part of the process and we can be really proud of that.”

Team boss Toto Wolff is also happy – at least in terms of stability: “That is our strength this year and brings us results, although the car is not good enough to drive for a world championship. But as long as Ferrari has the plague, that will play us with the points of course in the cards.”

In the Team World Championship, Mercedes is only 44 points behind the Scuderia because, with the exception of Russell’s retirement (after a crash at the start) at Silverstone, both Silver Arrow drivers have finished every race so far. A positive addition for Hamilton after the big deficit on the sobering qualifying Saturday: “Our race pace is much better. I don’t know why, but I’m very grateful for it, because that’s the most important pace. After all, there are the points today.”

After a period of weakness, Mercedes is getting more and more into step

Ex-teammate Nico Rosberg is also impressed by Mercedes’ performance on Sunday. “After the slap in the face yesterday, it’s a pretty incredible comeback,” he comments on Sky. “Nobody saw a double podium coming here and the fact that Lewis was able to keep the gap to the front-runners at just six seconds for long stretches of the race very positive for them.”

Rosberg has extra praise for his old team boss this time, because the German thinks: “Toto was very smart today. He noticed how his driver (Russell; ed.) got into a spiral where he found everything unfair. That’s why he got on the radio and said to him: ‘Stay focused on yourself and what you can do. Just overtake again.’ As a result, George stayed focused and hit the restart. In terms of sports psychology, Toto was very intelligent.”
Background: In the duel for third place with Sergio Perez, Russell fails in his first overtaking attempt because he pushes the Red Bull driver off the track in the chicane, so Perez takes a shortcut and initially keeps his nose in front. To Russell’s indignation, the race management sees the action as a racing incident. After Wolff warns the young Briton to calm down on the radio, he attacks again at the end of the virtual safety car phase and thus secures the second place on the podium for the Stuttgart team.

The Silver Arrow team boss: “I just wanted to reset him mentally. Of course he had the feeling that what happened wasn’t right. But I knew that he had the pace and could get him on the track.”

George Russell also made it onto the podium on Sunday

Wolff doesn’t want to leave Le Castellet too euphoric: “The race day was good, but the qualifying day wasn’t. All in all, we just have to get better.”

That’s why he doesn’t focus too much on snapshots like on Sunday: “It was a step forward, but for us it’s more about winning again on our own and then again next year (for the title; ed .) can play along.”

Everyone at Mercedes has internalized this new distribution of roles, but none as much as record man Hamilton, whom the Viennese has already described as a lion who is attacking again. Wolff: “We really had a very difficult time at the beginning of the season. But in the meantime everyone has come to terms with the fact that we are now the hunters, Lewis at the forefront: he not only drives fast in the car, he also pushes the team and has always an incredibly positive mindset, even when things don’t go well.”

Even after 300 Grands Prix, Hamilton obviously has a thirst for more. And not just because of the defective drinking bottle…

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