There’s no better time to make sweeping statements about a new Formula One season than the days after the first race.
Mercedes’ George Russell himself made a pretty big one on Sunday evening, and the scale of Red Bull’s win made it easy to cast some pretty big judgements about the year to come. We’ll get to Russell’s claim of total Red Bull dominance, but leaving Bahrain there was a clear feeling of something much bigger a little way down the pit lane.
Here’s a look at four of the biggest generalisations you could make about F1 right now and whether they’re valid.
Hamilton might never win again
Lewis Hamilton‘s Mercedes team looks ready to throw in the towel after one race, with team boss Toto Wolff admitting the team has to move on from its controversial ‘zero sidepod’ concept. Is it also calling time on Hamilton’s career as a race victory contender?
Verdict: NOT AN OVERREACTION
Hear us out on this one. On the basis of preseason and the opening race, Hamilton and Mercedes seem as far away from winning races as they have been since he joined the team in 2013. Depending on the circuit, the former world champions’ most optimistic bet is third in the pecking order behind Red Bull and Ferrari, but you can likely throw Aston Martin’s name in there at a lot of venues this year.
With Wolff needing just one 60-minute qualifying session to decide that a radical change is needed, the 2023 season seems like a write-off. The cost cap limits how much Mercedes can change direction and, even if Mercedes does pull an Aston Martin and design something more in line with the Red Bull, there are no guarantees doing that will propel them back to the front of the pack. Mercedes experienced the other side of this during its dominant spell, when the teams converging around their leading design still found themselves a year or two behind where they needed to be. Red Bull is a target that is not going to stop moving.
While it still seems highly likely Hamilton will sign an extension beyond this season, there is no cast-iron guarantee he stays at Mercedes or in F1 after 2023. Even if he does, the likelihood of him having a front-running car is fading fast.
This isn’t to say Hamilton has lost any of the ability which helped claim 103 victories, but you only have to look at the man who dominated the headlines in Bahrain to remember that even F1’s greatest drivers can go on winless streaks. When Fernando Alonso won the 2013 Spanish Grand Prix, the idea that it would be his…
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