Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, 2022

Hamilton “looked like he had a world championship-winning car” in Spain

2022 Spanish Grand Prix

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Mercedes’ performance during the Spanish Grand Prix showed the team had “probably the fastest race car today” according to team principal Toto Wolff.

George Russell finished third having held the lead of the race ahead of Max Verstappen at one stage. Lewis Hamilton recovered from a first-lap collision with Kevin Magnussen to finish fifth, despite a power unit problem in the final laps.

The team introduced a significant upgrade for its W13 this weekend which Wolff said has delivered a significant performance improvement. “We are literally learning by doing,” he said. “These regulations have caught us off-guard, in a way, and step by step we’re understanding what we need to do in order to bring that the performance back into the car.

“We’ve seen another big step this weekend, probably we halved the disadvantage to the front-runners. But still, there is lots of way to go in order to be right up there in the fight.”

Wolff was especially encouraged by Hamilton’s recovery drive. “With Lewis we had probably the fastest race car today. It was 15 seconds behind at the end and he caught all the way up, at stages in the race he was the quickest. And that shows the potential that the car has.”

After his experience in Jeddah, where he started 15th and only finished 10th, Hamilton feared he would be unable to score points again in Spain, and suggested it might be better to save the engine. Wolff said his climb into the points was a morale-boosting result.

(L to R): Max Verstappen, Red Bull; George Russell, Mercedes; Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, 2022
Gallery: 2022 Spanish Grand Prix in pictures
“The dynamic between the driver and team is something that is so important that it’s clear,” he said. “Having an accident at the early stage of the race and you’re saying to yourself, ‘not again’ and you’re not featuring because I think he was 38 seconds or so behind the last cars after his stop and that’s basically game over.

“But then him going and then showing this very good pace was important, not only for his morale, but also our morale. And who would have thought that he climbed all the way to fourth, before the problem came up.

“That looked like a world championship-winning race car that he was driving, that would have not been possible in the previous races. That reminded me of last year and the years before when our car is really on the top of its game. And the driver.”

However Hamilton was asked to use only 50% throttle during the final laps due to a power unit problem which dropped him to fifth place behind Carlos Sainz Jnr. Russell was asked for a similar, if less dramatic lift.

“There are some concerns,” Wolff admitted. “We had a water leak on Lewis’ car and general overheating on George’s and it’s concerning. But we obviously need to look at the hardware.”

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2022 Spanish Grand Prix

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Author information

Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a motorsport and automotive journalist with a particular interest in hybrid systems, electrification, batteries and new fuel technologies....

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80 comments on “Hamilton “looked like he had a world championship-winning car” in Spain”

  1. He was about a minute behind on lap 3. To finish where he did is quite staggering.

    1. Indeed. I assumed he’d have a harder time gaining positions.

    2. And dealing with engine issues at the end. DotD for me.

      1. Agree about driver of the day. Really not a Hamilton fan as I’ve made obvious. But everyone else today did silly things and Ham did a great job. Leclerc would’ve probably been close 2nd though.
        Had a big laugh when he said he wanted to retire though. Typical Hamilton. Knew right away he would finish high after that comment.

        1. Given the 57 second deficit on lap 7(?) it’s a reasonable thing to discuss long term strategy with the team, e.g. if the engine should be saved. The point isn’t to go fast right now, it’s to win the championship (which I agree is a tall order…).
          Also, remember not all the radio comms is broadcast.
          Also, try driving an F1 car and carrying on a detailed technical discussion at the same time.
          Leclerc is a class act.

        2. ‘Bono my tyres are gone’ cue fastest lap on 20 lap old hards… ‘Let’s save the engine’ cue 0.65s per lap mean-average faster than your team mate (who drove a brilliant defence against Max’s misbehaving RB) for the next 60 laps.

    3. If he wasn’t at the back of the pack, the stewards would’ve given LH a warning way sooner about cutting corners. I’m sure Fernando must be fuming inside his helmet for his penalty while Lewis got only a B/W after his eight or ninth offence. Yes, LH drove well and fast, but there are a few asterisks to be placed at quite a few laps

      1. Wow, didn’t notice about all this corner cutting, but I noticed the black and white flag.

      2. Hum, may I ask you which is the source for this claim? As far as I know this is quite an automated process: sensors determine if you went beyond the white line or whichever is the limit, at the third infraction the B/W flag is displayed. If this is the case I do not see how the stewards can be more or less lenient nor how sensors could be tricked several times…

    4. Indeed. It is told you so time from me but also I have to admit, very dodgy ending to the GP. Great recovery but looks like the car wouldn’t be legal without a “problem”.

    5. Hamilton only caught up because Russell kept the Red bulls behind him with incredible defensive driving for half the race. That kind of bating loses all involved at least a second a lap and kills tyres. Hamilton would have been behind them all and probably unable to pass, at best he would have given .Mercedes strategy options that may have helped keep Russell ahead.

  2. Lets retire the car to save the engine….haha. Well done MB to not listen to HRH.

    1. We quit as one.

  3. Got a feeling Hamilton’s setup was more race biased than Russell’s setup. This will definitely give them a lot of data to gather.

    1. @krichelle Very promising indeed for MB. All the others also brought updates to this race, so MB look to be on a good track.
      From a minute behind, to finish 5th was impressive, even if you think it was just the car :)

    2. @krichelle This has been Hamilton’s approach for a number of seasons now and it has paid him back, I think that through 2021 this became Verstappen’s approach as well and in 2022 for the first quarter of the season it has suited the Red Bull well vs the Ferrari.

      However today Leclerc’s Ferrari was the class act, as the circuits open out again (ignoring Monaco) it’s going to be very interesting second quarter to see how race-pace ebbs and flows, especially IF Hamilton’s Mercedes can build on the race pace seen today and we don’t get any DRS or engine reliability issues.

    3. Agreed.

      Mercedes are still in that data gathering mode, so of course they had the two cars on different setups and strategies. The most telling data will be on how their slim pod cooling systems coped with the higher temps.

      They mentioned water leak at the end, i believe their cooling solution relies on a heat exchange technology which would rely on water or some other coolant. With hamiton really pushing the engine, possibly on a higher engine mode, the cooling systems would have been pushed too. It could be that the cooling systems is the key factor limiting the engines. Let’s see them open that envelope.

    4. And rocket fuel biased as well.

  4. He was closer to the front because Charles retired and Max was stuck behind George for so long. If Max and Charles had been pushing each other to the end they would have been a lot further down the road.

    1. He was matching both Lec and Ver times when he was using a harder tire, today his car was absolutely a beast race wise. Very promising to Mercedes and I dare say they might take their first win in Monaco if they work on their slow cornering performance even harder.

      1. Was that not when Max was stuck behind George and Charles was cruising up front with no pressure?

        1. Nop, he was matching their laps from the start.

    2. True bit nevertheless a good performance from Lewis this time around.

  5. And he was the only front runner starting with medium tyres. It could’ve paid of tremendously.
    A shame it wasn’t to be.

  6. For someone with a never quit attitude, he sure wanted to save the engine and retire.

    Needlessly so.

    Car looked good, even great and Lewis was finally able to advance.

    Meanwhile George qualified better, drove clean and got a fair podium.

    1. @jureo On lap 1, nobody knew how good a race car it was. The championships take place over a whole season, given the budget cap, etc. maybe the correct strategy is to save the engine. Not all radio messages are broadcast, either.
      LH did a great recovery drive, from 1 minute down to 6th, with engine issues near the end. George did a superb job too, he’s a class act. MV cursed at his team and drove off the track, for once not pushing a rival out of the way, but the usual team orders got him a win, so his toys might well stay in the pram for once.

      1. If nobody knew how good the car in the race would be, then that’s another reason to continue to collect data.

        And I don’t get this Wolff story of almost a minute behind and finishing with a similar deficit (but a stop less) to be that spectacular. We also saw with Russell that Mercedes had caught up with the front runners; you’d expect them to recover that much during a race.

        1. @jff
          So it turns out, that the team decided it was best to continue, and in the end, LH did better than they expected, 5th when they projected 8th.
          Although apparently not better than you expected.

          1. He drove better than I expected (especially after his early radio comment after which I expected he’d given up).
            But neither Wolff nor you will convince me that it was a ‘world class drive’. He performed well in a strong car and similar to Leclerc, Russell, and Verstappen.

      2. He actually talked about this in an article and said that the team pushed him to stay out and not retire but that he was grateful for them encouraging him and that it paid off.

    2. @jureo what happened to you m8? Could tell u never liked Ham with a hint of “hedging you’re bets” but this season you going in. Talk about kicking someone when there down man. Ham been very good in race pace this year. Today he was mega, Russel far younger seems be doing him over a a lap but the raced ive watched lewis been a touch ahead basically would of beat a ferrari with a min headstart.

      Are you Erikje by any chance?

  7. For a team that needs to understand the car and probably needs every millage it can get for data, it surely was odd trying to give up early regardless where you are.

    1. There was quite a lot of damage to the car and he was almost a minute behind the last but one car… I think saving the engine was a rational thought at that point. The team has loads of data they run through simulations. The driver does not have that luxury…

      1. Were it not for this week’s upgrade, Hamilton’s call to retire the car and save the engine would have made perfect sense. The upgrades changes the picture. This car is performing better than Hamilton thought it would. That says a lot.

        it will be interesting to hear if Hamilton had any assistance over the radio to help him turn up the engine.

  8. Great drive by Lewis didn’t see much of him during the race so was a bit of a surprise to suddenly see him fithing with Carlos for 5th. Did he gain a lot of positions with the pitstop startegy or what happened there? The Toto radio message at the end was a bit too much. Don’t think the MB is a race winning car at the moment.

    1. Agreed, but another step like they just made and they will be right there.

    2. Didn’t see a lot of overtakes from him, he got stuck in one of the last positions on the first stint, then with new tyres he closed in quickly and overtook a few cars, but again many of them weren’t shown, only saw them on the timing screens, and after the various pit stops ended up being 5th I believe, they could’ve risked to leave him with only 2 stops, he had 13 sec on sainz and he had to defend for 19 laps with sainz gaining 1 sec per lap, they brought him in, lost a few places, closed to another car fast and passed it, and then there was the interesting trio bottas, sainz, hamilton, luckily for hamilton sainz passed bottas fast, so that also allowed him to pass him without losing touch with sainz, and he eventually got past, which was unexpected knowing merc is slower.

  9. Max didn’t have DRS and still finish way out front.
    The RB Wingman went from a 1 pit stop to a 5 pit stop strategy so Red Bull could say that Max was the fastest driver and deserved the position. Checo would have finished way out front if he was on a standard race strategy.
    Charles was way out front until his car shut down.
    George out qualified and out drove Lewis so P5 is about where Lewis stacks up.
    Carlos, not sure what to say about Carlos. I think if Ferrari keeps up their performance over Mercedes, I could see Lewis going to Ferrari for his final season.

    1. I forgot to mention that Lewis was exceeded track limits on every lap to make up time. They finally warned him about it.

      1. Good point, I forgot about that.

      2. Sounds like he did it the optimum number of times then.

        1. Indeed, that was clever.

  10. Hamilton was 60 seconds behind after his pit stop on Lap 1. Drove up to P4 ok pure pace and overtakes with no safety car aid. Now tell me another driver that can do that?

    Driver of the day 100%, fighting for the win 100%. Once Ham and Merc align in qualifying they will win races.

    1. Alonso, Verstappen, Leclerc

    2. And that opportunistic overtake on bottas on the outside straight after bottas lost the place to sainz felt schumacher-like, liked it!

    3. It was a good drive but we shouldn’t overlook how he ended up 60s behind in the first place. Drifting wide in an attempt to close the door on a car to his outside, when it was too late to do so. Again.

  11. Once again George produces a faultless drive and gets a podium, but on this site, it’s all about Lewis.. I roll my eyes.

    Back in the real world and on the plus side for George, had Mercedes created a race winning car, George would be getting Checo style messages over the radio. This way, he gets to show he’s every bit as good as Lewis and to drive to the best possible placing, mostly ahead pf Lewis. Will the scribes ever give him the credit he deserves?

    1. George has probably had luck In every race so far, merc need Ham and the car to align for them to make progress.

      Ham went from 60 secs behind with damage to P4 on pure pace and no help from safety car in supposedly the 3rd best car. Ham still the best driver out there !

      1. Why is everybody parroting this Wolff nonsense of ‘1 minute behind’?
        Great drive by Hamilton, but any of the top three cars could’ve done that; DRS was very strong this time for faster cars.

        1. 30 secs behind when he pitted, plus pit stop of over 30 seconds = 1 minute when he joined the race.

    2. Let’s be realistic and not pretend. Russel has only been faster like 2 races . This wasn’t one of them . He’s had tremendous luck and if you’re unable to see it then I’m afraid you are still not understanding how a race works . Even all the journalists and paddock experts and the stopwatch all agree that Lewis is not driving slower than Russel . This race he was considerably faster . I’m unable to deny the obvious.

      1. Have you heard of the saying ‘the harder I try, the luckier I get’? Once upon a time that was Lewis, and I was a fan for over a decade, but now he’s being shaded on the percentages by a teammate. There has only been one lucky safety car result, Australia, the rest have been calculated performances from George

      2. Still, it was also an impressive race by russell, keeping the red bulls behind and don’t forget he managed to lead the race for a bit with the 3rd fastest car, without being a pit stop behind!

    3. ThreePurpleSectors (@)
      22nd May 2022, 23:01

      @frasier, Great another one of those everything is six degrees of separation from Hamilton. Why are you so insecure? What is it about Hamilton that scares you so much? I have a clue though. You saw that pace and started sweating. Had it not been for Mag, Ham probably would have won that race with his offset tire start.

      1. Life is full of ifs, brings to mind one of Murray Walkers more inane quotes, but he was a true legend before you accuse me of disrespect. Fact is, George is doing a better job right now and for the die-hard Lewis fans, like yourself, that’s got to hurt a little so you lash out.

        Take it in your stride, it happens to the best, in the old days they often didn’t get to retire, Jim Clark was the most obvious example for me, I well remember how gutted I was when a freak accident took him from the world.

        1. search “The rocket tech behind Mercedes’ cutting-edge F1 coolers”

          1. 7.4.3 Primary heat exchanger specification and technology
            In order to reduce the cost of primary heat exchangers used on the car, the following
            restrictions apply:
            a. The core and header tanks must be made from aluminium alloy.
            2022 Formula 1 Technical Regulations 64 19 February 2021
            © 2021 Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile Issue 3
            b. The core must not be produced using additive manufacturing.
            c. Tubes must have a wall thickness of at least 0.18mm.
            d. The internal cross section of any tube must have an area of at least 10mm 2
            , without
            considering structural stiffening ribs and the internal fins described in point (e) below.
            e. Fins fitted inside the tubes must have a thickness of at least 0.06mm. Fins fitted
            between the tubes must have a minimum thickness of 0.05mm.
            In any liquid to air primary heat exchanger, the following additional restrictions apply:
            f. Its core must be planar. Tubes must be straight and parallel.
            g. Header plates must be perpendicular to the face of the core when measured in the
            plane of the tubes and air fins. The angle between the header plate and a tube, at
            their intersection, must not be less than 60°. Furthermore, with the exception of up to
            two sharp corners per header plate, the header plate may not have a radius of
            curvature of less than 50mm, prior to the holes being added for the tubes.

            Please explain this magic heat exchanger. In the end, the same amount of heat must be removed by whatever method, and that heat must go to atmosphere. This is not rocket science…..

        2. ThreePurpleSectors (@)
          23rd May 2022, 2:45

          @frasier, That’s hilarious. Sorry to break it to you but you’re fooling no one. It’s plain as day you’re hyping up GR as a proxy dig at LH. Otherwise, why not just give him his flowers?

          Keep praying for his downfall. I know you’re salavating about it. So much so you can’t see straight. I’m happy for GR, so are LH fans and Merc fans. You guys give the game away when you act like GR is dominating LH when they are qualifying a tenth from each other and race points difference between the two are a result of safety cars. So spare us the fake GR support. We’ve seen this strategy played out before. It was played with Rosberg and Bottas. You all loved them until you realized they weren’t the great white hope. Y’all dogged Rosberg until 2016 and ridiculed BOT as a #2, wingman, James memes etc…

          1. A diatribe based upon pure projection, fascinating if you’re a psychologist I’d guess..

  12. He was down to 12s behind Russell and closing until his water leak driving nearly a full lap on a flat on lap one. No safety cars, no nothing. That may have been one of his best drives in a long time. It’s perplexing how that car found such pace. I was sure he would just get stuck behind a midfield drs train if he even got that far.

    1. Maybe, just maybe the car is a lot faster than Mercedes lets on. Now the car is no longer rattling the brains of their drivers they can afford to push. The only factor is cooling and how much that restricts the engine. I suspect the reported leak on Hamilton is a desguised way to speak of the cooling systems, with its extra expenditure linked to a possibly boosted engine .

      Mercedes seem to have a habit of down playing the car’s potential. “we predict you’ll finish 8th”

      1. I don’t think they play down the potential, I remember a “lewis, we can win this race!” where he indeed ended up winning or very close (unsure if it was hungary 2021 or what).

      2. no, watch the onboards from previous races, the bouncing makes turns really unpredictable. the car is fast, but uncontrollable in the way Ferrari and Red Bull. but this race was an improvement. I think they have an engine disadvantage as well though this year, and that disadvantage is locked in with the engine freeze.

      3. They very first race Mercedes shows potentially competitive pace we are back to sAnDbAgS.

        I saw that video. It doesn’t really explain anything but hints, vaguely at some kind of capillary cooling system using fuel like in rocket motor.

    2. search “The rocket tech behind Mercedes’ cutting-edge F1 coolers”

  13. Seems everyone has forgotten how well the Merc’s went here in pre-season testing and then were nowhere. Me? I wait for a few more races before I decide if they have taken the step

    1. @malrg Fair enough we have to wait still, but pre-season Barcelona was another design.

    2. they used a different car concept in Barcelona, and might well return to it if they decide the current zero sidepod concept isnt worth developing.

    3. @malrg
      Finally, some sense.
      I’m more interested in seeing if the Merc is as quick in cooler temperatures as they were struggling to switch the tyres on before the hot conditions in Miami and Catalunya.
      Monaco will be another race we won’t be able to draw any conclusions from either unfortunately. The straight in Baku however, will tell us if they have indeed solved their porpoising issues.

      1. Let’s hope they have taken a step to make it a 3 way battle without any one Manufacturer being dominant.

  14. I suspect with absolutely no proof that Mercedes have introduced the same kind of under floor ‘skate’ design as Red Bull (and probably Ferrari) to curb the purpoises. If so then that bodes well as they can reintroduce downforce where they need it according to their original plans for this design, plus the drivers will be more confident in pushing the car.

  15. This is great news for the championship. its a long season and if 3 teams can fight for wins that would be the best we can get from modern F1.

  16. No safety cars,and Lewis still finished 5th.
    He definitely had the pace to win the race.
    He just needs to improve in quali.
    His race pace most of the time has been better than Russells.

    1. He just needs to improve in quali.
      His race pace most of the time has been better than Russells.

      Hmm, starting to wonder if this is somewhat down to setup. VB made a habit of setting up better (than Lewis) for quali than the race. Difficult to tell because with Lewis falling further back down the grid than George in most races this season, it’s been difficult to judge their relative race pace. With Hamilton able to pass in Barcelona, maybe we got a better idea. To be continued…

    2. They both need to improve. Last time out Russel didn’t even make q3. I think that when the car is knife edge it’s a lot harder to get that last .3s than when you are trying to get it balanced to run a good stint on the tires for the race. Both of them have done really well to not bin the car in any session, considering it was slamming on the ground like a 85 caprice classic low-rider.

  17. Last year in Interlagos when he went from starting at the back all the way to P1 between the sprint race and the Sunday race, the detractors were saying that it was all down to the rocket engine in the back of his car, despite Bottas not managing even P2.

    This year in Barcelona, in a circuit that is traditionally difficult to overtake, he climbed back to P4, having started P6 and going all the way down to the back of the grid in the first lap, far from the back of the pack. That is a virtual P1, considering the circumstances of the race.

    Staggering performance by the champ. Of course one needs the car to be able to do that, but the guy seriously delivers. No one can argue that, if you have any sense of the sport.

  18. IF the merc is now faster and is competitive, then i suspect both merc drivers will up their game and we may find out georges potential against hamilton ………….. however i thought we saw in this race the difference between Bottas and GR.. Bottas was fast, but he never had elbows – GR let everbody know today that he is no pushover and thats very important for the year ahead. If Farrari, Red Bull and Merc are battling at the front then we will have a fun year esp as Haas/Alfa/McLarenseem to have pace of varying degrees at certain circuits Lets enjoy.

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