Sky F1 pundit Martin Brundle believes that Lewis Hamilton was not able to shake off the impacts of his controversial title defeat in Abu Dhabi for over a year.
Hamilton went into a period of silence for much of the off-season after his Abu Dhabi 2021 title defeat to Max Verstappen, triggering speculation that he may not return at all after missing out on that record eighth World Championship on the final lap of the season.
Hamilton did return though, but with Mercedes falling away from the title scene, he went the full 2022 campaign without victory, the first time that had happened in a season of his Formula 1 career, with George Russell, his new team-mate for that season, outscoring him by 275 points to Hamilton’s 240.
Lewis Hamilton now turning the tide at Mercedes
However, while Mercedes have not been able to mount a title challenge in F1 2023 either, the power balance seems to be tipping back in Hamilton’s favour, the seven-time champion currently with 156 points on the board to Russell’s 99, Hamilton having wrestled the upper hand from his team-mate.
And now, Brundle believes we are seeing Hamilton returning to his best having finally shed the weight of Abu Dhabi 2021.
“I think, personally, it took Lewis over a year to get over Abu Dhabi 2021,” Brundle claimed.
“And also things just weren’t falling for him particularly well.
“I think George has been through a difficult time where it hasn’t paid off for him as such, but you have to say at the moment, Lewis has the upper hand in that duo in terms of the results and the speed that he’s showing, but they’re so close those two.”
Brundle’s Sky F1 colleague Naomi Schiff seconded his view on the Abu Dhabi ’21 impacts on Hamilton, pointing out how he and Russell went into the 2022 campaign from completely different places mentally.
“No driver likes to be beaten by their team-mate, but I think for last year, as Martin alluded to, I don’t think that was on the top of Lewis’ mind,” said Schiff.
“I think they both came into that season psychologically in very different places. Lewis coming from Abu Dhabi 2021 and George just coming out of the Williams into the big team, so totally different emotions and coming into a difficult car as well to not be able to get that title back.
“It was difficult for Lewis last year, but he’s back.”
Hamilton and Russell will together continue to lead Mercedes’ push to return to title contention, with the pair having both agreed fresh contracts to commit them to the team until the end of 2025.
And Brundle believes Mercedes absolutely made the right call in keeping this driver line-up together for at least the next two-and-a-bit seasons.
“The continuity that you have and the understanding of your drivers and the way they work, what they like in the car and out of the car, it just makes an awful lot of sense for them to settle that down,” said Brundle.
“And it is a great combo those two drivers, no doubt about it. And so I think the whole team settles at that point as well. It’s nice and early and they know exactly where they’re heading next year.”
With sights set on an F1 2024 title push, for this season a P3 finish in the Drivers’ standings is likely the best Hamilton can now do, the gap to Fernando Alonso currently occupying that position standing at 12 points.