LEWIS Hamilton says he expects Mercedes to end the 2022 Formula 1 season winless, despite having come agonisingly close to sealing victory at the United States Grand Prix.
Mercedes have endured a hugely disappointing campaign following the introduction of new design regulations and saw their eight-year streak of constructors’ championships officially ended on Sunday as Red Bull added the title to Max Verstappen’s second successive drivers’ crown.
After an encouraging display in Austin, whether or not Mercedes can win one of the final three races – starting in Mexico this weekend – has been a hot topic of discussion, but the seven-time world champion isn’t confident.
Hamilton pointed to the fact that his strong race performance was aided by being boosted to third on the grid because of penalties for Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Red Bull’s Sergio Perez.
“I think we really need to be realistic,” Hamilton said. “The Red Bull car has been the fastest car by far all year and it is still the fastest car.
“So [in USA] we were in the position we were in through reliability.
“If Charles was there, if Perez was there for example, it would have been a different race because they would have been ahead of us.
We would have been on the third row.
“It was great to start third and be in a position to fight, but on true pace they were ahead of us today and they will be the next three races.”
If Hamilton isn’t to win in Mexico, Brazil or Abu Dhabi, all live on Sky Sports F1 starting with the Mexico City race this weekend, then it would bring his record-equalling run of winning at least win in all of his seasons to an end.
Hamilton was aiming to break the tie with Michael Schumacher in his 16th campaign this year.
Hamilton’s hopes of victory in Austin were further boosted when Verstappen was held stationary for 11 seconds during his second and final pit stop, which saw the Red Bull driver drop around seven seconds behind the Brit, with Leclerc also between them.
However, Verstappen showed incredible speed to catch and pass both the Ferrari and Mercedes, before sealing his 13th victory in 19 races this season.
“Unless something drastic happens to any more of them, it’s highly unlikely we’ll have the true pace to be able to compete with them,” Hamilton added.
“We’ll give it everything we’ve got and we’re working on a car to be able to fight with them.
“He (Verstappen) was behind Charles, that just shows how much pace they had in hand, to get past Charles, catch me, and finish three seconds ahead.”
Hamilton’s former team-mate, Nico Rosberg, agrees that Mercedes will need good fortune to be able to triumph in the final three races.
Asked on Sky Sports F1’s Any Driven Monday if he thinks Mercedes will win a race, Rosberg said: “It’s hard to say, at the moment you’d probably say no.
“They need luck. If they can really get the luck, like with Max’s pit stop this weekend, if they can get something like that they have a real shot at it, but it’s a tough ask.
“Normally there should have been Leclerc as well in front of them on the grid, so a lot of things need to go in their favour.
Despite his concerns over Mercedes’ ability to compete for a win, Rosberg says he has been hugely impressed by Hamilton’s driving, along with his team-mate George Russell.
“Lewis is driving at the top of his game, as always,” added Rosberg, who beat Hamilton to the 2016 world championship before retiring.
“He’s still absolutely excellent out there at the moment, super brilliant. So it’s definitely not down to Lewis’ driving, it’s the car.
“So let’s see, if the circumstances do come into his favour, or George’s, then it can still come good.
“I really wish for it to happen for Mercedes, because they did such a great job to catch up during the season, understand the problems that they were having, which were really big, big problems.
“The porpoising, the breaking the floors because they were hitting the ground, and to figure that out during the year when you also have very limited testing was super difficult.
“Also to do it within the budget cap, such a big challenge and they’ve really made great progress.” — Skysports.