Lewis Hamilton is having a strange 2022 F1 season by his standards. He's more or less fighting in the midfield, his performances are erratic, and additionally, he does not seem happy. There's been a string of bad luck as well that has come Hamilton's way this season when it comes to the timings of the safety car and the red flags that have worked against him.
Overall, what this has done is it has left Hamilton facing a 34-point deficit to his teammate George Russell, the only driver on the grid to score a top-5 position in every race of the season so far. Russell is in his first season with Mercedes at the moment. He's shown splendid racecraft and admirable speed as well. There is, however, one thing that is similar in the relationship between Russell and Hamilton that was quite evident in the relationship between Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas (Russell's predecessor at Mercedes) as well.
Only this time around, it's not Hamilton doing it to his teammate, rather it is Hamilton getting that treatment from his teammate at Mercedes.
On his day, Valtteri Bottas could compete with and beat Lewis Hamilton
Valtteri Bottas is, in essence, a brilliant driver. He's ridiculously quick over a single lap and he's very versatile as well in terms of track where he can score big. Even during his partnership with Lewis Hamilton, it was not always a one-way street.
There were multiple races where Hamilton did take a beating against the Finnish driver. 20 pole positions with one of the greatest drivers to ever drive alongside you in the same car is a testament to that. So are the 10 wins that he accrued at the same time.
There were multiple races in which Bottas was in a league of his own and even drivers like Sebastian Vettel had no hope of catching up to him. His dominant win in Russia in 2017 was when he got the jump on Vettel at the start and never looked back. Or his win at the Austrian GP in 2017 where he shocked everyone with a record reaction time to the 5 red lights going out, was a true reflection of how good he was.
To cap it off, the win at the Turkish GP last season in wet, soggy conditions as he beat Max Verstappen in a straight fight was a perfect reminder for everyone, despite his season with the team coming to an end.
Here's what he could not do!
There is a reason, however, why Valtteri Bottas was never truly a contender for the title in that Mercedes and why Lewis Hamilton beat him by the following margins during their partnership:
- 2017: 363 points for Hamilton to 305 for Bottas
- 2018: 408 points for Hamilton to 247 for Bottas
- 2019: 413 points for Hamilton to 326 for Bottas
- 2020: 347 points for Hamilton to 223 for Bottas
- 2021: 387.5 points for Hamilton to 226 for Bottas
While Bottas showed that on his day, he could be a match and even beat Hamilton in a straight fight, he also showed one key weakness that his teammate did not have. Lewis Hamilton was able to maintain consistency while Valtteri Bottas could not.
Hamilton performed at a very high level every weekend. His teammate, however, could only pull it off once in a while. Consequently, despite having some highlight moments over the season, Bottas accrued a significant deficit as Hamilton kept racking up one win after the other.
How is this similar to the Russell-Hamilton dynamics this season?
George Russell might have had minor hiccups this season, like overcoming bad qualifying sessions in Australia and Miami to score a top-5 finish. Regardless, the Mercedes driver has ensured a very high and consistent level of performance in every race.
Now, let's take a look at Lewis Hamilton's 2022 F1 season:
- Bahrain: a 3rd Place finish
- Saudi GP: A Q1 elimination with the set-up gamble and 10th in the race
- Australia: a 4th Place finish
- Imola: a disastrous 13th place finish
- Miami: a 6th place finish
- Spain: a 5th place finish (out-qualified by Russell, a comeback result after the first lap clash)
- Monaco: an 8th place finish (outqualified and beaten by Russell again)
What this shows is clear crests and troughs in terms of performance for Hamilton. He performed at a very high level in Bahrain, which was succeeded by a rather average weekend in Saudi Arabia. He had a good one in Australia, followed again by a poor outing at Imola.
While George Russell has been able to keep his head down and score consistent points in every race, Lewis Hamilton has been very erratic this season.
Safety car timings and red flags might have played a role in the 34-point deficit. Simultaneously, however, it is this lack of consistency that has contributed to it as well. In some ways, Hamilton is facing the same predicament as Bottas used to. His peaks are great, but at the same time, it's the drops where Russell has capitalized.
One thing that is lacking from Hamilton's game now that was also lacking from Bottas is consistency! And after 7 races into the season, Hamilton is getting the same treatment from George Russell that he used to deliver to Bottas.
At the end of the day, Lewis Hamilton is a driver of significantly higher calibre than Valtteri Bottas and it won't be a surprise if he finds another gear in his driving in the upcoming races. It is, however, funny to see how the tables turn in F1, isn't it?