Lewis Hamilton believes his troublesome Mercedes will win this season, but perhaps not at this weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix.
The seven-time world champion has arrived in Spielberg for Sunday’s race full of optimism that his car is finally showing its potential after a mostly bleak first half of the year.
Last weekend’s British Grand Prix extended his winless run to 11 races, the longest in his standout career.
But third-placed Hamilton was almost as happy as if he, and not Carlos Sainz, had taken the chequered flag after his Mercedes at last battled shoulder to shoulder with the Red Bulls and Ferraris.
This was a massive improvement on the under-performing machine shackled by bouncing, or porpoising, as Mercedes grappled with the radical new design regulations brought in this term to produce closer racing.
The problem grew so bad in Azerbaijan, that Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff apologised to Hamilton over the team radio as arguably the best driver ever to grace the sport had to be helped out of the car his back was so shaken up by the bouncing over Baku’s streets.
“You’re just praying for it to end,” said Hamilton at the time.
With updates before Barcelona and Silverstone working their magic, the second half of the season is looking a lot more enticing.
“Yes, there was a long way back. Earlier this year, I definitely wasn’t sure we would ever get a win in this car,” Hamilton told a press conference on Thursday.
“Obviously that’s not the way we like to think, but there was a feeling that ‘Jesus, there’s a long, long way we have to catch everyone’, knowing the progress that everyone makes.”
The last two “quite strong” races have given cause for the hope that “we’re moving in the right direction,” he said.
“With a little bit more digging and a little bit more hard work, hopefully we can get a bit closer to having a chance at winning a race.
“So I truly believe we can get a race win this year.”
It would be quite a time to get off the mark for the season at the 11th attempt at the circuit owned by world champion Max Verstappen’s Red Bull team.
But as pleasing as that would be, Hamilton acknowledges the chocolate-box venue in the Styrian mountains has rarely been a happy hunting ground.
“I think we’ve always struggled in Austria, so it’s going to be hard to win here, I think, knowing the combination of the corners – but not impossible.”
Wolff, an Austrian, concurs, suggesting in the run-up to his home race that the upcoming French Grand Prix offered more appeal for Mercedes’ first win of 2022.
“I think Austria was always a little bit difficult,” said Wolff. “There are three corners that we don’t like, three and four with a warp.
“But high speed should be good there and Paul Ricard should be a good one, but we have to sort out the car generally.”
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