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Lewis Hamilton

Is Hamilton facing last chance at record-breaking title?

Hamilton has now gone two seasons without victory and his quest for an eight-title is seemingly getting harder. So is he now reaching a last-chance saloon?

Hamilton Mexico
To news overview © RN365/Michael Potts

Lewis Hamilton remains hungry for a record-breaking eighth F1 World Championship with Mercedes having signed a new contract with the team last season.

The British driver came within half a lap of securing the record in 2021 when narrowly denied by Max Verstappen in a controversial ending to the campaign and in the two years since, fortunes have taken a downturn.

So with time passing by and Mercedes off the boil, is time running out for Hamilton to add to his tally?

Stopwatch never lies

Mercedes' early struggles under F1's latest technical regulation set continued at the start of last season as the team persisted with its radical zeropod aerodynamic design.

It took until the Monaco Grand Prix for a change to be made, which is where fortunes began to pick up for the Silver Arrows. But regardless of the performance level of the car, Hamilton's own form was stellar.

If there were any concerns over his future in F1 in 2022 amid the struggles, they were dispelled with the show on track last term. Finishing third to the Red Bull duo despite McLaren's remarkable turnaround, Ferrari's strong qualifying form and Fernando Alonso's speedy start to the season for Aston Martin underlines just how strong and consistent Hamilton's form was.

A 59-point margin over teammate George Russell in the Drivers' standings suggests Hamilton outperformed his machinery and whilst age will be a concern for many of his fans as time runs out on his career, Alonso is older and remains just as competitive as ever. Ultimately, the stopwatch is the only measurement of performance, not age.

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

Budget cap a hurdle

However well Hamilton is performing, he will need assistance from his machinery and, looking at the Abu Dhabi season finale, there remains a gulf between Mercedes and Red Bull.

It would have been relatively easy for a team such as Mercedes to throw money at the issues to develop its way back into contention, given it is a giant of a manufacturer. But the budget cap brought into F1 in 2021 has prevented such wasteful spending from taking place and means huge gains are much harder to come by on track.

The technical team has to be selective in its manufacturing and testing of new solutions for the car, which limits the potential for closing the gap to the front.

But hope can be drawn from McLaren's rise in the latter stages of last season, given the Woking-based team's dismal start to the campaign where Lando Norris suggested it was only the seventh-fastest team.

If McLaren can find that time, Mercedes surely can.

New regulations a concern?

A huge hurdle for Hamilton - if the upcoming season doesn't provide at least a title challenge for the Briton - is the upcoming regulation change for 2026.

Whilst the changes are largely focused on the power units, chassis alterations will have to take place to accommodate them.

The question for all drivers - not just Hamilton - will be just how much focus each team will place on the following year's car? It could be another '2021 situation' where half of a team is focused on one year and the other half the next.

If so, that could stunt Mercedes' progression in 2025 and jeopardise any potential title challenge for Hamilton. The flip side, of course, is it could present an opportunity similar to how Red Bull closed in throughout 2021 to give Verstappen his title chance.

To call the next phase of Hamilton's career a last-chance saloon would be jumping the gun, but it is obvious there needs to be at least a step forward from the Silver Arrows to accommodate his aspirations. The performance is still there - can he break the record?

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