By Carol M. Creasey
Mercedes had only one free practice session to check their new floor in Austin, as this is the format during a sprint weekend.
He fought a good race on Saturday and rose from second on the grid, after overtaking Charles Leclerc at the start, with Max Verstappen remaining in P1. When interviewed afterwards he sounded confident about the main race on Sunday, which has not been the case recently.
On Sunday, he did not get a good start, and initially dropped to fourth place. Verstappen had started in P6, so Lewis had to work hard to keep him behind. The Briton then progressed to third, and it was the intention of Mercedes to put him on a one stop. However, his tyres were going off, so they took him in for a tyre change, which put him further back, so he had to work his way up again.
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After his second stop, the tyres really seemed to work for him, and Bono told him several times that he was the fastest man on the track. After overtaking Norris, he set his sights on Verstappen, who had overtaken him through the pit stops, and the time came down from 7 seconds behind to just under 2. But in the end Lewis ran out of laps, but obviously felt very buoyed by the fact that he had come closer to Verstappen than at any other time this year.
There was a buzz of happiness amongst the fans to see Lewis in such a happy place emotionally, and enjoying a newly found confidence in the performance of the car. Then a few hours later, all that euphoria came crashing down after the FIA decided to disqualify both Sir Lewis and Charles Leclerc, because their wooden planks were too far worn down.
The initial reaction from fans was absolute fury, and the FIA only have themselves to blame for this. Many people have lost confidence in their decision-making since Abu Dhabi 2021, when the safety car rules were changed to favour Verstappen. It has also been noted by fans that Lewis was catching up to Perez on points for second place in the Drivers’ Championship, and now the disqualification has robbed him of 18 points. This made some fans believe that the FIA are trying to help Red Bull to come first and second.
However, Toto Wolff and Mercedes have immediately held their hands up and admitted they got it wrong. They set the car up wrong with only one practice to get it right, which is a very honest admission of being at fault. But at this track, which is exceptionally bumpy, there are extenuating circumstances. I think after inspecting four cars, and finding that two of them did not comply with the rules, the FIA should have checked them all. They may well have found others who also didn’t comply, and if that happened to be most of the gird, instead of disqualifying them, they could have slapped them with a grid penalty, or they could have let the team take the hit with a fine.
Sir Lewis Hamilton has struggled with a very difficult car for two seasons now. He doesn’t complain incessantly, he puts all his energy into inspiring his team to do better, and just when it looks as though the hard work is paying off, he gets his result taken away from him. It’s heartbreaking, but Lewis will fight back, because he has grit and determination. I am wishing him to get his first win of the year very shortly, maybe even this weekend in Mexico. It is long overdue.
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