Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes team celebrated their best result of the season at the French Grand Prix.
Hamilton finished runner-up in his 300th Formula One race, with team-mate George Russell one place back in third.
Here, the PA news agency looks at the impact Sunday’s performance will have on Mercedes’ season.
Hamilton was clearly delighted with his second place, hailing his team’s greatest result of a troubled campaign. But while Mercedes’ first double podium of 2022 provides cause for optimism, they remain a distant third to Red Bull and Ferrari. Winner Max Verstappen finished a comfortable 10 seconds up the road, while Charles Leclerc and Ferrari team-mate Carlos Sainz would have finished ahead of both Hamilton and Russell, but for the Monegasque’s crash and the Spaniard’s engine penalty. Hamilton was also a mighty nine tenths slower than Leclerc in qualifying at a silky-smooth, mid-to-high-speed venue which was expected to play to Mercedes’ strengths.
While Sunday’s result might have been aided by Ferrari’s troubles, Hamilton did finish ahead of Red Bull’s Sergio Perez on pure speed – the first occasion Mercedes have been able to say that this season. And although Leclerc and Verstappen raced away from Hamilton in the opening phase – he trailed them by six seconds after just four laps – there were stages where Hamilton was faster than both the Ferrari and Red Bull men.
The Italian team continue to shoot themselves in the foot. Leclerc is 63 points adrift of Verstappen in the individual standings following a combination of mechanical, strategical and driver errors, while Sainz has also suffered. Leclerc has converted just two of his seven poles into victories this year, and Ferrari have managed the fewest laps (1141) of any team. Red Bull have also suffered at the hands of reliability – with Verstappen failing to finish twice – but Mercedes’ machine has been largely bulletproof. Hamilton is the only driver to have completed every race this year, while the ever-impressive, and ever-consistent Russell has been in the top five at all of the 12 rounds, bar his retirement at the British Grand Prix following a first-lap accident.
Back in 2009, Hamilton’s McLaren was a dud – a car the seven-time world champion describes as the worst he has ever driven in Formula One. But a sudden mid-season upgrade allowed him to win at the Hungaroring – the venue for this Sunday’s race. However, the British driver, 37, will be relying on a similar twist of fate, coupled with problems for Red Bull and Ferrari, to ensure he continues his remarkable record of winning at least one race in each of the 16 seasons he has competed in.
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