F1 omen gives Lewis Hamilton title hope as great stat emerges

Lewis Hamilton shows off his 1966 Shelby Cobra 427 car

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Things may currently look bleak for Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes, but an interesting omen has offered him a glimmer of hope of dethroning Red Bull rival Max Verstappen.

The Brit opened his account for the 2023 F1 season with a fifth place finish at the Bahrain GP – 51 seconds behind the Dutchman who took the win. Mercedes were considerably slower than front-runners Red Bull, along with Ferrari and even Fernando Alonso’s Aston Martin.

Both the seven-time champion and teammate George Russell, who finished seventh, were visibly disappointed after the race. Though some way off competing for the championship at the moment, an interesting statistic may offer a lifeline for Hamilton and Mercedes.

Since 2017, the winner of the opening race in each season has not gone on to win the world championship. Verstappen failed to finish last year’s Bahrain GP as Charles Leclerc took the chequered flag, but the Red Bull driver bounced back emphatically to comfortably win his second successive world title.

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Hamilton benefitted from this phenomenon on its first four occasions, first beating then-Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel to the title after the German won the season-opening race in both 2017 and 2018. He went on to clinch another pair of championships after former team-mate Valtteri Bottas won the first race of the 2019 and 2020 campaigns.

But the F1 legend himself fell foul of the curse in 2021, winning the season opener in Bahrain before Verstappen controversially took the title on the final lap of an enthralling season in Abu Dhabi. In the aftermath of a hard-fought race this past Sunday, Hamilton told Sky Sports F1 that he will request immediate upgrades to ensure that the gap to their rivals doesn’t increase.

“We definitely can’t fight Ferrari at the moment,” Hamilton said. “They were much quicker than us today, as were the Astons. We’re the fourth fastest team. We are going backwards, we have a lot of work to do to close that gap. Unfortunately the car is not there at the moment.

“We are just lacking downforce and we have got to work really hard to add that ASAP. Anything from in the wind tunnel, we need it tomorrow. We have really got to push massively to try and close that gap.” As Mercedes look to turn their fortunes around, team principal Toto Wolff revealed an alternate car concept has already ‘been done in the wind tunnel’.

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Although the zero-pods continue to be blamed for at least some of Mercedes’ downforce woes, Wolff says it comes to the minor details that spectators cannot see as he slammed the W14. “It’s been done in the wind tunnel, but it’s not just about the sidepods or how the car looks from the outside,” he said as per ORF. “We have to dig into the data and decide which direction to go in.”

“Everything is bad,” he added. “The single-lap pace is still good but in the race we saw the consequences and to put it bluntly we are lacking downforce and sliding the tyres and going backwards.

“When you look at where we were at the end of the season, where it seemed like we caught up a lot and it was just a matter of which circuits suited us and which do not. I think we’ve almost doubled if not tripled [the deficit] to get to Red Bull. This is what we need to look at.”

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