EDITORIAL: Can Lewis Hamilton still win the 2022 title?

© LAT Images for Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd

By Adrian Mann

Lewis Hamilton has had an awful start to the 2022 season, definitely the worst since 2009, when he was driving what he admitted was the worst car of his career.

Unfortunately, very recently he compared that car – the McLaren MP4-24, to his current ride – the Mercedes W13. There’s also no doubt that Mercedes too has been having the worst start to a season since the turbo hybrid era began back in 2014. The W13 has been plagued with numerous issues, the biggest being ‘porpoising’, which the team is frantically trying to solve. Recent comments from the team’s Trackside Engineering Director Andrew Shovlin seem to imply that the first updates aimed at solving the issue could be introduced in time for the Miami Grand Prix, but it remains to be seen if they will provide an indication that the assumed potential of the car can be unlocked.

In the meantime, Lewis currently sits 58 points behind championship leader Charles Leclerc in the 2022 standings. After the painful Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, which saw him finish in P13, Lewis himself said he was out of the 2022 title picture.

“I am out of the championship, for sure, there’s no question about that, but I’ll still keep working hard and try and somehow pull it back together somehow,” he told the media.

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But is there even a chance for Lewis to ‘pull it back together’? Well mathematically there certainly is. With 19 races and two sprint qualys still on the calendar, there are 510 points up for grabs (475 for the main races, 19 for fastest laps and 16 for sprint races). Looking at it from this perspective, a 58-point deficit doesn’t seem that huge, however only if two conditions are met – that Mercedes will be able to solve their issues and that the car actually has the untapped potential to be much faster than it is. We’re talking more than a second worth of untapped potential.

Ahead of the 2022 season there were reports that the W13 was very fast in the simulator, but when it took to the track, porpoising happened, which the simulator could not replicate and predict. The belief at Mercedes is that once the porpoising issue is solved they will gain at the very least a second a lap. Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said after Imola that the team believes “there’s quite some laptime” to be found, so fingers crossed.

The other part of the equation is that, once the full power of Mercedes’ car is unleashed, Lewis has to be able to produce dominant and consistent drives for the rest of the season. Ahead of Imola Lewis himself said:

“We know how these championships work, and with those two teams at the front, Ferrari and Red Bull who are punching out serious performance, we’ve got to find a second and a half at least soon to be ahead of them, and finish ahead of them every single race for the rest of the year basically. That’s not going to be easy.”

That’s not going to be easy indeed, but if anybody can do it, Lewis have proven that he can, and he did it as recently as last season. By the time the 2021 Sao Paulo Grand Prix rolled around, Lewis basically needed to win all four of the remaining races to claim the title, and boy did he do it in style. First he produced one of the all-time great drives at the Sao Paulo sprint race getting from last on the grid to P5, and then in the main race he got from P10 to a race win. He went on to win each subsequent race, except the final one in Abu Dhabi, but he would have taken a dominant win (and the championship) there as well, had he not been cheated out of it by a race director who decided to completely disregard rules and regulations. When the chips are down, Lewis Hamilton delivers.

It’s also important to note that Lewis is only 31 points behind Max Verstappen, who sits second in the championship standings. If Verstappen is still a championship contender, it would only take a race win for Lewis, and a DNF for Verstappen, for the two drivers to be neck and neck.

So, to get back to the title of this piece – can Lewis Hamilton still win the 2022 title? Realistically? Well, it’s impossible to predict how the championship will proceed, but taking everything into account, my answer is – yes, of course he can! However, to borrow a phrase from Sir Lewis himself – it’s not going to be easy.

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