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Lewis Hamilton

Why Hamilton is wrong to rule himself out of F1's title fight

Despite being the only driver in F1 history to have won a race in every season he has competed, this is not Lewis Hamilton's worst start to a title fight, and nor is the W13 the worst car he has ever driven.

Lewis Hamilton did not hold back at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix as the seven-time World Champion counted himself out of F1's title fight.

After a nightmare start to the season that has seen him draw a blank more often than he has stood on the podium, the dream of an eighth crown in 2022 already appears to be over.

That was Hamilton's mindset as he flew out of Imola on Sunday night, beaten not only by his teammates but lapped by his rivals.

He already finds himself 58 points behind World Championship leader Charles Leclerc in the standings, down in a position he is not used to – but one that he has been in once before.

Hamilton has already been here with McLaren

Believe it or not, despite being the only driver in F1 history to have tasted victory in every season he has contested, Hamilton has previously endured a worse start to an F1 campaign.

Back in 2009, with their MP4-24, McLaren arrived at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix fearing the very worst. They had struggled during testing, lapping well off the pace with a car that had failed to claw back downforce following a major regulation change.

As a result, Hamilton scored only nine points during the opening nine races - with a best finish of fourth - while Brawn GP driver Jenson Button took 68 points from a possible 90.

McLaren had, much like Mercedes in 2022, failed to give their star driver a car capable of winning races, and their season was seemingly over.

Hamilton recalls his nightmare start to 2009

"It was only my third year in the sport and it was a brand new era of car," explained Hamilton, casting his mind back as he spoke to members of the media, including RacingNews365.com.

"I remember coming back in February, or January, to the team, and I remember that the head aerodynamicists and the guys at the top were like, 'We've already hit our target'.

"The new rules said that we would have 50 per cent less downforce in 2009, so they designed a car to have 50 per cent less downforce.

"I remember thinking, 'That doesn't sound right', but I didn't have the experience at the time, you know?

"We got to the first test and we realised that others had almost as much downforce as the previous year, and they were like, 'Oh, shoot, we've got to work to regain that'."

How McLaren turned their year around

Hamilton wanted the MP4-24 scrapped, arguing that McLaren should have turned their back on the car as soon as it proved uncompetitive.

But, following the Great Recession, there were fears that it could take a number of months for the team to rebuild its 2009 entry – and even then there were no guarantees that a B-spec car would prove any more competitive.

The team soon discovered the cause of their problems and began bringing upgrades, including a double diffuser. By the German Grand Prix, midway through the season, they were back fighting at the front.

"The ultimate unlocker of that was a double diffuser.... and we got there," added Hamilton, who was the class of the field during the final seven races.

Hamilton's 2009 season, in two parts

Points won (Rounds 1-9) Points won (Rounds 10-17)
1. Button - 68 points 1. Hamilton - 39 points
2. Vettel - 47 points 2. Raikkonen - 39 points
3. Webber - 45.5 points 3. Vettel - 37 points
4. Barrichello - 44 points 4. Barrichello - 33 points
5. Massa - 22 points 5. Button - 27 points
6. Trulli - 21.5 points 6. Webber - 24 points
7. Rosberg - 20.5 points 7. Kovalainen - 17 points
8. Alonso - 13 points 8. Rosberg - 14 points
9. Glock - 13 points 9. Alonso - 13 points
10. Raikkonen - 10 points 10. Glock - 13 points
11. Hamilton - 9 points 11. Trulli - 11 points

2009 should tell Hamilton the fight is not over yet

By the time McLaren had used the early rounds of 2009 to learn from their mistakes and deliver Hamilton a car capable of winning races, the season was eight races old with only nine weekends to go.

Button and Brawn had proven dominant, winning six of the first seven races and having already placed one hand on the World Championship trophy.

But should it take Mercedes the same amount of time to find the fix for their wounded W13 car, there would be 15 races left for Hamilton to chip away at the gap, with a massive 406 points still to fight for.

And unlike in 2009, Red Bull and Ferrari's back and forth fight makes a Button-style runaway leader at the season's mid-point unlikely.

Hamilton sees parallels but says 2022 is different

From a car standpoint, 2022 is different, says Hamilton, although the outcome could prove to be exactly the same.

"The team have not been like, 'Oh, we've already hit our goal'. We didn't know where everyone would be," he explained.

"They've been super innovative with design and our wind tunnel was telling us that we had really good downforce. There was no bouncing, for example, in the wind tunnel.

"Unfortunately, we got on track and we came across this phenomenon that is a lot harder to fix than then we could have ever imagined.

"As I've said, what doesn't kill us will only make us stronger. We will find a solution, one way or another."

Also interesting:

F1 Podcast: Are Red Bull now favourites and has Hamilton hit a new low?

RacingNews365.com F1 journalists Dieter Rencken, Mike Seymour and Thomas Maher look back over the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, where Red Bull triumphed, Ferrari hit trouble and Mercedes struggled.

F1 2022 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix RN365 News dossier

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