Tom Coronel: It was ‘time to go’ for Lewis Hamilton before he got his ‘bite’ back in 2022

Michelle Foster
Lewis Hamilton with Mercedes personnel in the garage. Hungary July 2022

Lewis Hamilton with Mercedes personnel in the garage. Hungary July 2022

As Lewis Hamilton fell behind George Russell at the start of the 2022 season, Dutch racing driver Tom Coronel thought it was “time to go” for the seven-time World Champion.

He changed his mind as the year progressed, though, saying Hamilton regained his “bite”.

Hamilton found himself trailing his new Mercedes team-mate Russell in the early part of the 2022 season, the 37-year-old left to do most of Mercedes’ experimental set-up work as the team tried to resolve their porpoising problems.

While Russell went on a run of nine successive top-five finishes, Hamilton managed just five in that same period.

It had Coronel questioning whether he should have quit after losing the title in 2021, Hamilton dealt a harsh blow as then-race director Michael Masi controversially set up a final lap shoot-out that Max Verstappen, on fresher tyres, easily won.

“At the start of the season I was like ‘it’s time to go’,” the 50-year-old said to the Dutch edition of Motorsport.com. “I really thought so.

“I don’t even know if it was so much the motivation. The blow you take as a sportsman after last year, of course you don’t just get over it. It gnaws in your head and you have sleepless nights.

“Everyone has that, no matter how such a great sportsman you are, so I think it was not so much the motivation with Hamilton.”

But as Mercedes minimised the bouncing, it was Hamilton who came to the fore in the second half of the season and challenged Verstappen for the win in Austin and again in Mexico.

He fell short both days, rivals suggesting Mercedes put him on the wrong strategy, while a week later his team-mate Russell broke Mercedes’ duck when he won the Sao Paulo Grand Prix.

“Lewis lacked the positivity in those first months,” continued Coronel, “but that gradually came back – actually from Barcelona little by little. Then I saw him bite again, just as we are used to from him.

“At the end of the season he was really strong again. I mean Russell did indeed take Mercedes’ only win this year but if you look at how he ended the year then Hamilton deserved that win too.

“I have to say at the end of the year Lewis has driven really well and also showed that the fighting spirit is back, especially towards next year.”

More ‘bite’ to come from Lewis Hamilton next season

2022 was not Lewis Hamilton’s year. Whether it was the hangover from Abu Dhabi 2021, the porpoising W13, or that he was carrying out most of the development work for the team, it was the perfect storm that led to his first win-less season in 16 years on the Formula 1 grid.

There won’t be a repeat of that next season.

Pundits are already predicting a three-team fight for the 2023 titles with Red Bull up against Ferrari and Mercedes. But while Franz Tost reckons George Russell will be the driver flying the flag for Mercedes, it seems inconceivable that Hamilton won’t be up there.

Unlike Russell he knows how to fight for a World title in Formula 1, he also knows how to fight Max Verstappen having done so rather successfully in 2021 with a few glimpses of that this past year.

Russell may be the one Verstappen and Charles Leclerc are likely to be a bit easier on, more respectful some would say, but that’s because they know what Hamilton brings to the table – he even showed his aggressiveness against Russell at the start in Mexico.

Don’t for a moment write Hamilton out of the equation, that bite will be back with a vengeance next season. The only question is can Mercedes resolving their bouncing once and for all because it was back in Abu Dhabi, and that’s concern for both drivers.

Read more: Max Verstappen ‘felt’ for Lewis Hamilton but ‘hoped’ he’d understand after Brazil 2008