Hamilton’s exceptional final stint contrasts with his overall disappointing weekend
Amidst a weekend filled with frustration and challenges, Lewis Hamilton made a thrilling comeback during the final 15 laps of the Miami Grand Prix. The seven-time Formula 1 champion showcased his resilience, rising from outside the top 10 contenders to secure an improbable sixth-place finish, reigniting his passion for racing.
Throughout the Miami Grand Prix weekend, Lewis Hamilton experienced significant challenges and aggravation, until the final 15 laps provided the seven-time Formula 1 champion with a thrilling experience that he truly relishes.
Initially, Hamilton was not within the top 10 contenders during the first portion of the race, and required pitstops from other cars to elevate him into the leading group. Following a lengthy initial stint and a sequence of successful overtaking maneuvers, Hamilton managed to secure an improbable sixth-place finish that had seemed highly doubtful at the start.
When Hamilton exited his pitstop, his frustrated inquiry for a race update encapsulated the struggles he had faced since Mercedes’ performance took a hit in the second practice on Friday.
“Do the people ahead need to stop?” he asked. The response was, “Negative. Most people have stopped, so we’re racing the cars ahead.”
Hamilton seemed perplexed, asking, “How did I end up in 10th place?”
He was, in fact, in ninth place (though initially informed he was in 10th) and told that making significant progress would entail reaching the battle between Charles Leclerc and Pierre Gasly for sixth place. The reality was that Hamilton’s extended first stint on hard tires set him up for a late surge on medium tires, even though he had fallen behind cars he was already trailing at the beginning of the race.
Despite his frustration, Hamilton soon found a way to channel it. The tire advantage allowed him to pursue his opponents – first Valtteri Bottas, using a switchback maneuver out of the final corner, and then a straightforward DRS-assisted pass on Kevin Magnussen after closing a six-second gap. Leclerc and Gasly were another five seconds ahead, but Hamilton had them in his crosshairs.
With five laps remaining, Hamilton caught up to them as they engaged in their own duel. He overtook Gasly shortly after Leclerc did the same, making a daring move on the inside at Turn 11. One lap later, he executed a similar maneuver to pass a slightly more resistant Leclerc.
Hamilton’s team enthusiastically commended his performance at the finish line, and he celebrated a respectable number of points for Mercedes under the given conditions. However, there was also a personal triumph in play.
The final stint served as a catharsis, cleansing away the earlier frustrations – Hamilton isn’t in the sport to finish sixth, but having the chance to compete again was clearly a much-needed mental boost.
“Ah man, mega,” he responded when asked by F1Lead about his satisfaction with the final stint, given the weekend’s challenges.
“Just to be in… the sprint race in the last race, for example, I was losing ground. It’s just demoralizing when you’re falling behind, it’s really tough. So it was great to have pace, see the cars up ahead, witness the progress, and know that we were going to engage in battles with others. I had a couple of great overtakes as well. That’s what I live for.”
Qualifying 13th at Mercedes’ most baffling event yet marked a new low for Hamilton in an already disappointing season. It was possible that either he or his teammate George Russell, or both, could have been eliminated in Q2 – a reality that reflected the car’s single-lap performance in Miami.
Hamilton’s annoyance began with the management of his final run in Q2, as he believed that getting on track earlier would have led to a smoother and more effective preparation. Regardless of the reason for his failure to complete the lap, Russell succeeded, leaving Hamilton to face an even more challenging weekend than he had initially anticipated.
The beginning of the race unfolded with a similarly frustrating theme for Hamilton. Starting on hard tires and running for an extended period required patience and persistence, but a first-lap collision with Nico Hulkenberg momentarily made Hamilton believe he had a problem.
Once he overcame that obstacle, another challenge arose. Caught in a DRS train without any noticeable speed advantage during this stage of the grand prix, Hamilton’s progress was sluggish. It wasn’t until his pitstop that his race truly gained momentum.
Although Hamilton had a tire advantage, it would be misleading to attribute his late ascent in the rankings solely to exceptional pace. He executed an effective performance under favorable conditions that he had helped create.
The Mercedes car simply isn’t that fast. On average, Hamilton was just over three-tenths of a lap faster than Ocon, who employed a nearly identical strategy, and eight-tenths of a lap slower than race winner Max Verstappen during his shorter final stint.
Nevertheless, Hamilton seized the opportunity, displaying sharp racecraft and leaving an impression that has been relatively rare in 2023 – a sense that he genuinely enjoyed the race.
“It felt great to see the Ferrari up ahead and catching them bit by bit,” he said. “It’s really impressive that they’re so quick on a single lap, but I don’t know what was going on during their race.
“But to come from 13th and rejoin the battle with them was great. If we had qualified where I probably should have, we’d have had a much easier and smoother day.
“However, I prefer days like this, where there’s adversity and you need to pull everything together and deliver. It’s great fun to do that.”
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