Friday, July 1, 2022

Hamilton “thrilled” with the result of the Canadian Grand Prix, but remains a distant sixth

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“I think we have something here, guys, let’s keep pushing,” Hamilton tells his team after third place in Montreal

Hamilton’s return to the podium for the first time since the opening race in Bahrain will no doubt cause even more headaches at Brackley, albeit of a happier kind. It will be infinite affirmation for a driver who has been outperformed by team-mate George Russell in seven consecutive races since Sakhir bring. No obligation for Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff to roll out his Hamilton justifications that day.

At a Montreal circuit that has given Lewis Hamilton seven victories, including his first of his career, third place felt as good as any of those mighty wins, and rounded off a remarkable transformation in a Mercedes engine driven two days earlier dog feces was compared. At one point, Hamilton reveled in the sweet delirium of the fastest lap.

“I think we have something here guys. Let’s keep pushing,” Hamilton said over the radio as he brought the car home behind Red Bull winner Max Verstappen and Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz.

“It’s great to see a smile on your face,” said Jenson Button in his role as maitre d’.

“It’s overwhelming,” he said. “We’ve had such a fight this year, but we’re inspired not to give up. We’re getting closer. I’m excited. I did not expect that.”

The race ended in a 15-lap thrash after Yuki Tsunoda slammed his AlphaTauri’s nose into the wall at turn one with 20 laps to go. So far, Hamilton has held a 12-second lead over Russell in fourth place. Although two safety cars were required early in the race, this was the first sighting of reality.

Hamilton, who had made his last stop for new shoes five laps earlier, asked on the radio what it all meant. The Mercedes pit wall assured him that the laps behind the safety car would protect the pace that gave him the fastest lap before Tsunoda hit the wall. And so it turned out.

The result puts a new spin on a paddock dynamic that was seething with rage 24 hours earlier, as teams considered the FIA’s safety directive on the eve of the race to find a solution to the bouncing issues that tainted the season. How much the cars could be modified and how changes could be made was the subject of heated debates among team bosses, with Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff disapproving of some in the paddock less affected by porpoises.

Not surprisingly, championship leaders Red Bull and second-placed Ferrari argued against mid-season changes because they risked penalizing teams that had made the best use of the ground forces’ radical return to aerodynamics in 2022. Mercedes may not need to push its case with the same urgency should they replicate their performance upgrades at their home Grand Prix at Silverstone in two weeks time.

However, Mercedes thought they had crossed their Rubicon in Barcelona before going into reverse in Monaco and Azerbaijan. In fact, a week ago, Hamilton could barely walk after dragging himself out of the car in Baku. Here he said he was young again, back strong enough to tap-dance in the paddock while lugging a sack of potatoes on his shoulders.

Hamilton was quick off the line, keeping Kevin Magnussen’s feisty Haas at bay through the opening turns before finding an easy rhythm. The retirement of Red Bull’s Sergio Perez with a power failure after eight laps triggered the first virtual safety car and a hard compound pit stop. In came race director Verstappen and Hamilton.

Sainz stuck to convention by doing the opposite of Verstappen to take the lead, putting Fernando Alonso back in second and Russell, who also remained in strategic opposition to his teammate, in fourth. A second safety car ten laps later brought Russell to a cheap stop and then restarted in fourth, ten seconds back.

When Hamilton pitted for the second time with 25 laps to go, Russell followed suit. That would have been if Tsunoda hadn’t unexpectedly jeopardized the finale. After Hamilton had had a lot of bad luck this season, a break was due. In the end he didn’t need it. He never caught Sainz, but he had the measure of Russell to reverse the narrative of his season.

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