FRENCH GRAND PRIX – First group photo in 2022 for Lewis Hamilton’s 300th: Mercedes smiles again

Seven months and 19 days. It was a long wait, but Mercedes, plagued by major porpoise problems at the start of the season with an ill-fated W13, placed both of their drivers on pole in France for the first time since the Saudi event, contested last December 5.

For his 300th Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton crossed the finish line in second place, marking a fourth consecutive podium. He was quickly followed by teammate George Russell, who got rid of Sergio Perez (Red Bull) with four laps to go.

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However, the update made to the W13 in the Var had not conquered the team. Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff described the package of improvements (redesigned floor, changes in nose cooling and front brakes…) as “not good enough”. “We are the third force in the board, but it is not enough”, said after qualifying finished in 4th and 6th place. The Austrian brought the point home: “We came here thinking we were going to make a run for the win and we’re further away than before.”

Hamilton, stronger than Prost and Senna combined

The star marque may not have the fastest car on the grid, but its drivers extract the quintessence of their ride at every outing. Taking advantage of the facts and opportunities of the race, they recovered 33 points from France. What to dampen the cold anger of his boss.

“What a great resultwelcomed Lewis Hamilton. I didn’t want to let myself down in front of this amazing crowd.” His excellent take-off from the fourth slot allowed him to pass Perez even before the first corner. Collected by Max Verstappen (Red Bull) after the abandonment of Charles Leclerc (Ferrari), the seven-time world champion crossed the Grand Prix alone. With, only for the opponent… his thirst.

Lewis Hamilton

Credit: Getty Images

In the oven of Le Castellet (30°C in the air, over 50°C on the track), the drinks system of the 44 single-seater did not work: “I haven’t seen my weight, but I guess I’ve lost about three kilos. I can’t wait to drink!” A two-time winner of the French Grand Prix at Paul Ricard (2018, 2019), Hamilton is happy to accept this second place, his best result in 2022.

Used to reigning at circuits around the world for more than a decade, the Brit now has more podiums than Alain Prost (106) and Ayrton Senna (80) combined.. “We stand on the shoulders of these giants. What they have achieved in the past is phenomenal. I’m happy to be up there with them and represent my sport the way they have.”he commented on Canal +.

The small steps of Mercedes

George Russell crossed swords with Sergio Perez to share his first podium with the king of statistics. The Mexican made him sweat, defending his third position at all costs. He only gave way at the end of the race in a skilful overtaking of the young Briton after a long arm pass, from lap 42 to 51, marked by a touchdown between the two drivers.

“When you attack and have the wheels in front, you have the benefit of the turn. The defender must leave space, which Sergio did not do, who even cut the chicane. It was quite frustrating”, Russell confided to the microphone of Canal +. Rarely did Wolff command his pilot “Keep calm and focus” during the confrontation, feeling that he was losing in penalties. The former Williams starter finally flustered Perez with a lightning maneuver on the restart: “My recipe? It’s top secret! You have to be in the perfect moment, prepare the moment.”

It’s all about income. The one from Mercedes took time, but it is in the process of seasoning the championship that advances in the second part of the season. “We must remain humblehe undertook to temper Wolff. Our car is not good at the moment to fight with the guys in front. We didn’t suddenly become a team capable of tickling Verstappen.”

certainly Quickly overtaken by Red Bull and Ferrari, the German team is advancing slowly and surely. More improvements are to be made in Hungary for the last leg before the summer break. In any case, this is the desire expressed by Hamilton, who measures the progression of his team. In the drivers’ standings, Russell is one point behind Sainz (4th) and 27 behind Leclerc in second place. Among the Manufacturers, the difference is already made with Alpine (270 for Mercedes, 93 for the French team). The Transalpins, penalized by their lack of reliability and the mistakes of their own, only aim for 44 lengths.

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