Lewis Hamilton’s quest for a record-breaking eighth Formula 1 World Championship has stalled dramatically since so narrowly missing out on the final lap of the 2021 season. Everyone will have their own thoughts on how that controversial Abu Dhabi Grand Prix transpired as Max Verstappen secured his first title in dramatic fashion. But Hamilton has been unable to avenge that loss in the time since with Mercedes struggling under F1’s newest technical regulations. The British driver has at times been left disgruntled with the problems and at a loss to explain how the Silver Arrows have landed in such difficulty. Whilst speculation has risen over whether continued struggles would diminish Hamilton’s drive for F1 success and promote a departure from Mercedes or even the sport, issues may actually make him a more dangerous rival for his competitors if the German manufacturer can pull together and provide competitive machinery. Hamilton the leader Hamilton has been forthcoming in his criticism of Mercedes’ design philosophy with the W14 and its predecessor, with the latest of his irritations coming with the positioning of the cockpit relative to the front wheels. “We sit closer to the front wheels than all the other drivers. Our cockpit is too close to the front,” he explained before the Australian Grand Prix. “When you’re driving, you feel like you’re sitting on the front wheels, which is one of the worst feelings to feel when you’re driving a car.” Hamilton is using all his experience to help drive the team forward and attempt to overhaul the gulf in performance to Red Bull. A podium in Australia before the spring break will have provided solace ahead of the team’s planned upgrades in Imola in three races time. His drive can’t be doubted given the amount of experimentation being put in during race weekends to essentially test set-up solutions, putting himself on the back foot in the short term in the hope he could be on the front foot in the future. The championship battle this year is largely a write-off now with Red Bull in such command, but Hamilton’s willingness to drive Mercedes on and off the track underlines his commitment to the cause. Adversity a catalyst for success But why do these issues make Hamilton stronger? Adversity has seemingly been a catalyst for success in his career, especially at Mercedes. This can be accounted for both on and off-track. Rarely defeated, Hamilton has taken on the burden of promoting awareness of societal and environmental issues in F1 and wider society. Speaking in a recent Mercedes video recapping 10 years at the team , Hamilton explained that his decision to run a rainbow-liveried crash helmet design at the 2021 Qatar Grand Prix came in spite of the potential backlash. Such was his desire to highlight the laws specifically affecting those in the LGBTQ+ community in the Middle Eastern country, Hamilton explained: “My drive was like ‘I have got to get to the top of the podium because then that will make the biggest bang’ and I did.” If he can be so driven to secure a win for that cause, what will his motivation be when emerging from this troublesome period? There have been so many moments in which Hamilton has overcome on-track adversity to secure success. Who can forget the complete turnaround from disconsolation in the wake of prematurely giving up on his British Grand Prix qualifying attempt in wet-dry conditions in 2014, slipping to sixth on the grid? The dejection stoked emotion in anyone watching the post-session interviews on television, yet on race day Hamilton roared back to secure the victory. What about the 2021 sprint event at Interlagos where Hamilton was controversially dropped to the back of the grid after qualifying when the FIA discovered his DRS slot gap did not conform to regulations? He put the disappointment behind him, despite the tension of battling for the title with Verstappen, to surge through the field in the sprint to finish fifth, before overcoming a further five-place grid penalty for an engine change to secure victory from 10th on the grid. There is no doubt Verstappen has asserted himself as the driver to beat in F1 over the past 12 months, but given the battle the duo had two seasons ago and the hunger this shallow period will give Hamilton, the Briton could well be as dangerous as ever if provided with competitive machinery in 2024.
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