Hamilton ending 945-day drought makes for 'most special' win

SILVERSTONE, England — For the first time in a glittering career spanning three decades and 344 grands prix, Lewis Hamilton was moved to tears as he took the chequered flag in Sunday’s Formula One British Grand Prix.

At all of his previous 103 grands prix victories — including those that sealed championships and shattered records — he had kept his emotions in check. This one was different.

“When I came across that line, something released in me that I guess I’ve been holding on to for a long time,” Hamilton explained on Sunday evening at Silverstone. “It was the most emotional end to a win that I’ve ever experienced. I’ve always wondered why I never cry, and I always thought I guess it doesn’t happen to me, but it hit me hard this time.

“I think after such a difficult year in 2021, we just tried to continue to come back but also, we as a team have had a really difficult time and there were just so many thoughts and so many doubts in my mind along the way, to the point of, at times wanting to not continue. So to arrive and to continue to get up and to continue to try and to finally succeed, is honestly the greatest feeling I can remember having.”

His cathartic cooldown lap marked the end of a 945-day victory drought; a winless period dating back to the 2021 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix and the final throes of his heady title battle with Max Verstappen. Just a week after that 103rd career win in Jeddah, Hamilton suffered the most bruising defeat of his career when the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and an eighth world title were ripped from his grasp.

Two and a half years on from that feverish night, the mental scars inflicted by the controversial actions of then-race director Michael Masi — actions the FIA later put down to human error — are occasionally visible. Asked if the win at Silverstone was the final piece of the puzzle he needed to finally move on from the events of 2021, Hamilton said, “I think only time will tell.”

His answer then drifted off to his decision to move to Ferrari next year and his ongoing love for F1, before coming back to the topic at hand.

“Honestly, when I came back in 2022, I thought that I was over it,” he said. “But I know I wasn’t, and it’s taken a long time to heal that kind of feeling — that’s only natural for anyone that has that experience. I’ve just been continuing to try and work on myself and find that inner peace day by day.”

The aftermath of the 2021 season happened to coincide with the introduction of a new set of technical regulations the following year that Red Bull mastered. Verstappen was propelled to two further titles by his seemingly unbeatable Red Bull while Mercedes and Hamilton wallowed in a frustrating period of trial and error.

The results of the seven-time champion slumped into striking distance of an increasingly competitive midfield pack in 2022 and 2023, and even at the start of this season he finished no higher than seventh at the first five races. As he struggled with a Mercedes that was unwilling to respond to his commands but only too eager to catch him by surprise, he also started to fight his own demons.

“There’s so many times where you feel like your best shot is just not good enough,” Hamilton said, reflecting on his 945 days without a win. We live in a time when mental health is such a serious issue, and I’m not going to lie, I have experienced that too. There’s definitely been moments where there was the thought that this was it, that [winning] was never going to happen again.”

Although Hamilton insists his decision to move to Ferrari next year was unrelated to the results of the past two years, there was a growing risk prior to Sunday that he might leave Mercedes without another victory. As recently as last year, Hamilton spoke of “unfinished business” with Mercedes, while his boss Toto Wolff said the team owed him another shot at an eighth world title.

Mercedes’ resurgence this season has come too late for Hamilton to mount a serious championship challenge, but it’s clear how much it meant to him to win with the team again before heading to Maranello.

“When we started the season, we weren’t anywhere near looking like we would ever get a win through the year. That for me felt like it would be kind of bittersweet at the end of the season, if you’ve not had something like today,” Hamilton said. And the fact that we’ve really all come together, everyone’s done such a great job to get the car into a place where we’re feeling much more comfortable and really changes from the foundation from last year.

“So not leaving on a low, but leaving on a high, which has been our goal. There’s still a long, long way to go — the car is by no means the quickest car on the grid right now — but I think we are super close, and I think hopefully with the next upgrade perhaps, we will be in an even stronger position to really, really be fighting at the front more consistently.”

No one in the paddock knows what it means to Hamilton quite like Wolff. The Mercedes team principal has witnessed firsthand the depths of his team’s struggles, and in his 12th season working alongside Hamilton, he understands the toll it all has taken on his star driver.

“It was so difficult over the last two years that we couldn’t really find performance, we couldn’t give the drivers a car that was able to go for the victories,” Wolff said. “And to make him win again, the British Grand Prix, in his last race for Mercedes here, it’s almost like a little fairytale.”

Hamilton’s win also served as a reminder of just how good he can be when a shot at victory is on the line. Recent performances relative to teammate George Russell (who now only leads Hamilton by a single point in the drivers’ championship) led some to question his motivation, but his ability to hold off Verstappen and Lando Norris in the final stint of the race was a reminder of the skill and determination of the seven-time champion.

It’s perhaps no surprise this one meant more than the previous 103.

“That’s the longest stint that I’ve not had a win, 945 days, and a lot of emotion has accumulated over that time,” Hamilton said. “So this one feels like it could be one of the most special ones for me … if not the most special one.”

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top