Louis Hamilton missed the roar of the fans, so it was appropriate that when he needed reinforcements the most, he heard it from the largest audience in the history of the Canadian Grand Prix.
Montreal is, after all, the place of Hamilton’s first Formula 1 podium. That was 15 years ago, 103 victories and seven world championships – practically another life considering the terrible start that Hamilton and Mercedes had this season.
A new Mercedes made to F22 specifications for 2022 is pathetic to drive; Hamilton’s back hurts from all the bouncing, in part because Mercedes drives low to the ground for maximum performance. This search for thrust created the effect of “posing”, which is, to say the least, dangerous for the long-term health of the driver.
Hamilton admitted that he suffers from more headaches than usual in the last few months, but he does not know whether these are micro-earthquakes. He uses his personal physiotherapist, takes painkillers and, together with his new teammate George Russell, drives everything Mercedes gives them.
But a week ago in Baku it felt like the bottom, when the 37-year-old struggled to even get out of his car after jumping 290 miles through the streets of Azerbaijan. The governing body of Formula 1 intervened last Thursday with a technical directive issued by the FIA to solve the problem of porpoise.
The directive caught the fall of Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in behind-the-scenes politics, and rivals found it strange that Mercedes reacted so quickly to a late announcement in time for Friday’s opening training session.
In the end, Mercedes used the technical directive to test the new settings on Friday, but that made their cars even worse. So, on Saturday, the team did what their rivals had been proposing all along: Mercedes raised the bar, and Hamilton’s attempt for fourth place in the qualifiers was his best of the year. Then he finished the third week and won only his second podium in nine races this season.
He was Sir Louis Hamilton when he got out of the car, not a veteran struggling to keep his younger teammate and keep leaders in sight. Hamilton heard the audience – Formula 1 said that a record 338,000 spectators came out during the three days of the series’ return after a two-year pandemic break – and immediately addressed the fans.
“How are you, Montreal?” asked. He later thought about what Sunday’s finish – his first podium since the season opened in March – meant to him this terrible season.
“I haven’t been on the podium in a long time,” he said. “So, especially because I had my first one here 15 years ago, to go back there and experience the energy of the crowd was very reminiscent of that first year here. I’m so, so happy about it. ”
Will Hamilton now be competitive enough to defend his victory at the British Grand Prix in the next Formula 1 race in two weeks? Probably not. Mercedes still does not have the pace of Red Bull and Ferrari, and even after raising the driving height in Montreal, the cars still bounced.
“We still have bouncing, it won’t go away,” Hamilton said. “And I really hope that moving to Silverstone is such an important race for us and for me, I just want to be in the battle with these guys. We’ll get there in the end. ”
Russell, who beat Hamilton in seven of nine races this season, did not sound encouraged after finishing fourth. He said the porpoise was probably “less extreme” than Baku due to the smoother surface of Montreal, but Mercedes “is still smashing up and down the ground”.
“The overall inherent problems of these cars from 2022 are far from being solved,” Russell said.
He was also critical of Mercedes’ pace and said that the results of the qualifications and the race were misleading because the lack of pace of Red Bull and Ferrari “was still quite significant”.
“We are still far from where we need to be,” Russell said. “Yes, we have not made much progress yet.”
Their rivals will tell you that Mercedes simply missed the mark on its 2022 car and that it over-dramatized the driver’s health concerns in order to push the FIA into changing the rules.
Although other drivers, including Sergio Perez from Red Bull, admitted that it was porpoising, no team struggled like Mercedes. And, if Mercedes is so worried, rival teams have been thinking openly, why not increase its driving height to better comfort its drivers? (Answer: The lower to the ground, the faster the car).
“This is a Formula One car. This is not a Rolls-Royce. Drivers should also be aware of that, “said Franz Tost, a former driver who became the head of AlphaTauri. “If the cars are too rigid, or too heavy for them, maybe they should stay at home, in the living room, sit in a chair, and then they can run on TV or anywhere. I do not know.”
Alpine CEO Otmar Schaffnauer was also open: “We only strive to drive a car at a driving height that still gets the performance we need, but does not injure or injure drivers or destroy the car.
“We are leading it safely. And I believe that every team has that opportunity to do that, “he added.