Emotional Hamilton rolls back the years - Hindustan Times

Emotional Hamilton rolls back the years

By, New Delhi
Jul 08, 2024 09:46 PM IST

The Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton had just enough to hold off a late charge from Max Verstappen to take his first win since 2021

“Get in there, Lewis!” We’ve often heard Peter ‘Bono’ Bonnington revel with Lewis Hamilton, delivering this celebratory message in his inimitable style over the radio after almost every time the Silver Arrow won in the past 10 years.

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton celebrates after winning the British Grand Prix. (AP)
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton celebrates after winning the British Grand Prix. (AP)

But the celebrations had dried up at Mercedes, especially in Hamilton’s garage. For 945 days and 56 races, Hamilton’s race engineer could not convey his special line, now famous among Hamilton aficionados, as the seven-time Formula 1 world champion raced without a win the last two-and-a-half years.

On Sunday, Bono once again screamed “Get in there, Lewis” over the radio as the 39-year-old took the chequered flag at Silverstone to earn his first win since the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix in December 2021. Struggling to hold back his tears, Hamilton responded in his quivering voice: “Thanks a lot guys. It means a lot to get this.”

The Mercedes driver cut an emotional figure after the British GP, crying over the radio. He stopped his car in parc ferme, not stepping out immediately, holding his head in disbelief, the magnitude of the situation getting to him. He emerged eventually, hugged his father, took off his crash helmet, kissed his mother before embracing his mechanics, many of their eyes moist.

“I can’t stop crying! It’s been since 2021, every day getting up, trying to fight, to train, to put my mind to the task and work as hard as I can with this amazing team,” said Hamilton.

It was an emotional moment for Hamilton and his team who from 2014 till 2021 were so used to winning. But the last couple of years have been tough with Mercedes not being the fastest car and Hamilton’s teammate George Russell many a time emerging as the faster driver of the two, winning two races and earning three pole positions.

For a driver who had won at least one race every season from 2007 to 2021, not winning the last two years have been tough to digest. Critics were quick to comment that the Briton’s hey days were behind him. Some even questioned whether he’d be able to come out of the 2021 title loss to Max Verstappen in controversial circumstances.

Hamilton himself doubted his resolve after finishing sixth in 2022 – his lowest position till date. “There’s definitely been days between 2021 and here where I didn’t feel like I was good enough, or whether I was going to get back to where I am today, but the important thing is I had great people around me, continuing to support me,” said Hamilton.

Last year was better as he ended third behind the two Red Bulls of Verstappen and Sergio Perez. But 2024 has been the worst season of his career as Hamilton sits in eighth.

But Sunday’s drive showed that Hamilton had neither lost his pace nor his efficacy despite a topsy-turvy race that saw the lead change regularly throughout 52 laps.

In what was perhaps the finest race of the season yet that saw rain spice things up with changing conditions that made it a dry-wet-dry race, Hamilton too delivered his finest performance in a long time to keep the car on track, make the least number of errors – a career hallmark, and took all the right calls to win the gripping race on the legendary circuit that hosted the first ever F1 race.

“It’s so tough. The important thing is just how you continue to get up, and you’ve got to continue to dig deep even when you feel like you’re at the bottom of the barrel,” he said.

The occasion made it even more special, winning his home Grand Prix for the ninth time to continue his romance with Silverstone to break Michael Schumacher’s (8) record for most wins at a single circuit. It was also the first time that a driver had won a race after competing in 300 races, taking part in his 344th GP. Hamilton also set the longest interval record between his first and last win at 17 years and one month, breaking Kimi Raikkonen’s record of 15 years.

“This is my last race here at the British Grand Prix with this team, so I wanted to win this so much for them, because I love them, I appreciate them so much, all the hard work they’ve been putting in all over these years,” said Hamilton.

With an upgraded Mercedes, Hamilton would want to deliver a couple of more memorable performances for the team that has given him six world titles – a record for a driver-constructor pair. He would for sure love to hear ‘Get in there, Lewis’ at least one more time before making the switch to Ferrari in 2025.

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