Azerbaijan GP – For Lewis Hamilton, a fourth place and a stewed back: "I was praying for it to end"

Azerbaijan GP – For Lewis Hamilton, a fourth place and a stewed back: “I was praying for it to end”

Parked in the parc fermé, he pulls himself together twice to leave his seat. He ends up sitting on the halo, his right hand resting on his lower back. Helped by a member of the Mercedes team, he has all the difficulty in the world to extricate himself completely from his single-seater. The fluorescent yellow helmet tinged with purple does not deceive the identity of the driver: it is indeed Lewis Hamilton.

The seven-time world champion clinched 4th place in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix on Sunday afternoon, finishing behind his teammate George Russell thanks to a nice maneuver on Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri). But this great performance at the wheel of a badly born single-seater has a price: it left him in a pitiful state, plagued by immense back pain, which he announced on the radio on the 29th lap.

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“It was the most physical race I have ever done in my life. I had never felt such pain in a car before. The races are physical but, this time, I was biting my tongue to contain the painhe explained to our colleagues from Canal+later acknowledging that the adrenaline got him to see the checkered flag and that he “prayed for the race to end”.

Russell evokes a question of “security”

No need to dwell on the cause of this discomfort, amplified or not: porpoising. If the other teams are still more or less affected, the W13 was shaken throughout the weekend in Azerbaijan. The phenomenon of violent and continuous rebounds has cost the Silver Arrows “more than a tenth” in the only avenue des Pétroliers, bumpy portion of 2,200 meters. Above all, he caused terrible pain in Hamilton.

After the qualifications, the native of Stevenange had already confided in the evil which gnawed at him: “God bless Angela (Cullen, his physiotherapist). Fortunately, she offers me physiotherapy and acupuncture sessions every evening. This morning (Saturday)I woke up with a lot of pain.

Also subject to porpoising in the other Mercedes, George Russell took up the subject. The president of the F1 Grand Prix Drivers Association (GPDA) has sounded the alarm, calling on the FIA. The safety of the pilots is, according to him, at stake: “I think it’s only a matter of time before something major happens. Drivers can barely see where to brake at the end of the straight because of the bouncing. It’s not just our team. “A lot of us can barely keep the car straight on these bumps. In Baku, you go through the last two corners at 300km/h scraping the ground!”

Lewis Hamilton in Baku

Credit: Getty Images

Horner disapproves of Wolff

Russell was joined by Toto Wolff, again apologetic to Hamilton for leaving him such a car to drive. “This regulation will follow us for many years. Now is the time to say that this poses a real problem for the physical condition of the drivers. It is not only our point of view”assured the boss of Mercedes at the microphone of Sky Sports. An opinion that his counterpart at Red Bull, Christian Horner, obviously does not share: “The easiest decision to counter porpoising is to raise the ride height. The team has a choice.”

Despite these difficulties, the German team took advantage of the facts of the race to score 27 points and return to 38 units of Ferrari. George Russell’s third podium of the season helped a lot. The young Englishman is maximizing the potential of his W13 and has finished all his races in the Top 5.

As for Hamilton, fourth, and elected driver of the day, he opted for different settings this weekend in order to correct the defects of the Silver Arrows. While Wolff cast doubt on his presence in Montreal next week, the seven-time world champion, for his part, said he would be at the factory on Monday “to find solutions”.

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