Lewis Hamilton has reiterated that his F1 title chances are over after a disastrous Emilia Romagna GP, where his new 2022 low led to Red Bull’s Helmut Marko cheekily suggesting that F1’s seven-time champion may wish he had retired at the end of last season.
Hamilton, already well off the pace heading into the weekend, saw his disappointing campaign worsen further in Imola as he finished 12th in the Sprint and 13th in the race; his first point-less return from the four rounds.
To make matters worse, Hamilton was lapped by race winner and last year’s fierce title rival Max Verstappen on Lap 40.
“A weekend to forget, that’s for sure,” said Hamilton, before reasserting his claim that he is not competing for the world championship.
“I’m out of it, for sure. There’s no question about that, but I’ll still keep working as hard as I can to try and somehow pull it back together somehow.”
Hamilton has slipped to seventh in the drivers’ standings and is now 58 points behind leader Leclerc.
After the race, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff spoke to Hamilton on team radio to say “sorry” for an “undrivable” car which suffers with violent bouncing issues and a lack of speed, though George Russell managed fourth.
Expanding on his comments, Wolff told Sky Sports F1: “We are not good enough for a world champion, not worthy for a world champion. We just need to fix the car.”
He added to reporters: “Lewis deserves better from us. But we are a team, so we all need to do the upmost in order to provide him with a machine that is able to fight for the front positions.
“The guy is the best driver in the world and he is just not having the machine and the equipment underneath him to be able to execute.”
Marko: Maybe Hamilton should have retired
Hamilton suffered a nightmare race on Sunday. Starting 12th, he couldn’t make much ground before losing more vital positions during the first pit-stops, and he was then stuck in a DRS train behind a defensively-sound Pierre Gasly for the rest of the race, finishing 13th.
Insult was added to injury on Lap 40 of 63 when Verstappen, cruising to his second win of the season, lapped Hamilton.
Doing so for just the second time in his career and the first time since 2017, Verstappen’s feat was unimaginable coming into the season given the pair’s extremely close battle in 2021 and Mercedes’ dominance for the last eight years.
Afterwards, Verstappen played it down, saying: “They’ve been slow all year so for me it’s not really anything exciting, it just happens.”
Red Bull team advisor Marko, however, twisted the knife when speaking to Sky Sports News after the race when asked how he thought Hamilton was feeling after Imola.
“I mean, he was lapped by us,” Marko told SSN’s Craig Slater. “Maybe he is thinking he should have stopped last year!”
Hamilton, so far at least, insists he is still “100% committed” to Mercedes and has no plans to retire.
Despite the dramatic and controversial end to last season after Verstappen’s much-scrutinised title win in the finale, Hamilton signed a new two-year contract with Mercedes.
Questioned by reporters over the weekend after Mercedes’ poor start to the season, Hamilton asserted his commitment to the team and reversing their fortunes.
“There is nowhere else I want to be. Just because we have hit a rough patch, it is not in my DNA to back out.
“We can fix this. It is going to be a painful year that we are going to have to ride out together.”
Speaking to Sky Sports after Marko on Sunday, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said of Hamilton: “Obviously very tough for him today.
“He’s not forgotten how to drive – it’s only five races ago they were fighting in Abu Dhabi.
“They’ll sort their issues out I’m sure. We don’t write anyone off in this championship because there’s such a long, long way to go.”
Despondent Hamilton reacts to Imola | Mercedes: Real stars recover
Hamilton understandably cut a disheartened figure after Sunday and only spoke to the media briefly after the race.
After Mercedes apologised to him, Hamilton issued one straight back to the team.
“It’s been difficult.. it’s definitely not easy,” he said. “At least George got some points today.
“My apologies to everyone that I wasn’t able to do the same.
“Everyone’s feeling it and everyone’s just keeping their head down and doing their best.”
Hamilton also insisted that his current struggles were definitely “not the lowest” moment of his career, while Wolff also backed his star driver to bounce back.
“The real stars they have recovered,” stated Wolff.
“There is none out of the great ones that come to my mind that didn’t have certain moment in their career where things didn’t run properly, and that is the case now with him since a long time.
“He’s going to help the team to sort itself out and we are sticking together through the good and bad times.
“Today was certainly a very bad day.”
Rosberg: Hamilton is a fighter
2016 world champion and Hamilton’s former team-mate Nico Rosberg on Sky Sports F1:
“That was tough to see Lewis in that state… he’s really down which is understandable.
“It is a long season but they’re nowhere with that car; they’re not even going to be able to fight for race wins any time soon. So, it’s difficult for Lewis to keep his motivation up.
“I think he’ll manage because he really is a fighter and remember there’s always that thing that he still wants to beat his team-mate. That’s really, really important to him.
“With George performing so well, that could be the biggest motivator for Lewis to just keep going and keep fighting.”