Lewis Hamilton currently boasts the proud record of winning a race in every season that he has completed in Formula One. However, it looks increasingly under threat given Mercedes’ struggles this season. The Brit is yet to stand on the top step of the podium after 17 races and arguably missed his best opportunity in Singapore last weekend.
The W13 has tended to excel in tracks that require high downforce packages with the car struggling for pace in a straight line. Mercedes’ best performances have come at the Hungaroring and Zandovoort tracks that are more technical, featuring many slow-speed corners – a similar trait to the Marina Bay Circuit.
However, Hamilton was unable to match the pace of Sergio Perez and Charles Leclerc during the race, with his slim hopes completely disappearing after he slid off in lap 33 while chasing Carlos Sainz for third. Another mistake later in the race meant he fell behind Max Verstappen to finish in a lowly ninth.
As a result, it appears his best chance to maintain his impressive record has now gone, with the 37-year-old now largely reliant on luck if he is to stand any chance of a win.
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This weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix looks particularly tough with the Suzuka track famous for its fast sweeping corners, particularly in the first sector. The track is therefore likely to favour car that performed better with lower downforce packages and Red Bull are particularly favoured for a win at Honda’s home track that could see Verstappen clinch the title. However, there is a small chance of rain during the race this weekend, something which could create the chaos needed for him to come out on top.
The problems for Hamilton at the following race in the US appear to be similar, with the Texas track again renowned for its quick close contact corners. It is not a circuit which favours Mercedes’ strengths, with another weekend staring at the back of Ferrari and Red Bull predicted.
Mexico has always been a track that Mercedes have tended to struggle at, relatively speaking, even when they were the sport’s dominant force. The Silver Arrows power unit struggles with the altitude of the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez. Given their performance so far this season there is little to suggest that form could change this year, with the track arguably the seven-time world champion’s lowest chance of victory.
Brazil may, in fact, be Hamilton’s best opportunity given the carnage that can regularly break out at Interlagos. The track was the scene of one of Hamilton’s greatest ever wins last season as he passed every other driver during the sprint and feature races to finish first on the Sunday.
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The race, which was also the scene of the Englishman’s infamous first-ever Championship win, is famed for its unpredictable conditions which can lead to difficult to call races. Hamilton’s best hope may be for a wet race in Brazil where he can take advantage of his rivals making inevitable mistakes in the rain.
Failing that the only opportunity left will be Abu Dhabi, another race which does not necessarily suit low downforce setups. Any chance in the season-ender may come courtesy of Red Bull and Ferrari becoming complacent as they set their sights towards success in 2023. There is precedent for this too, with Verstappen taking a shock win in 2020 despite the track being dominated by Mercedes every year between 2014 and 2019.