Hamilton reveals huge off-track battle during winless exile

Hamilton reveals huge off-track battle during winless exile
Hamilton reveals huge off-track battle during winless exile

Lewis Hamilton has revealed he is struggling with his mental health as he attempts to finally end his 946-day winless streak.

As he crossed the chequered flag for the first time since the 2021 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, there was a wave of emotion the seven-time F1 champion had never experienced during his extraordinarily successful career.

Hamilton cried over the radio, again in the arms of his father Anthony after getting out of his Mercedes, and eventually stood on the podium as the national anthem ‘God Save the King’ was played at Silverstone.

The relief of ending two and a half years of pain was palpable, during which he wondered if he would win again and forced him to fight demons he had never faced before.

Asked if he had lost confidence that he would be able to have that winning feeling again, he replied: “Absolutely. It feels different to previous races and especially races where you have race after race after race, or seasons where you have multiple wins.

“I would say that as a team we’ve faced all the adversity that we’ve gone through. I’ve experienced those challenges, the constant challenge that we all have to get out of bed every day and do our best.

“There are so many times when you feel like your best effort isn’t good enough, and that can be disappointing at times.

“We live in a time where mental health is such a serious issue, and I’m not going to lie, I’ve been through that. There’s definitely been times where (I) thought this was it, that (the winning feeling) would never happen again.

“So to have this feeling over the border, honestly, I’ve never cried after a win. It just came from me. And it’s a really, really great feeling. I’m very, very grateful for it.”

Hamilton explains the reasons behind emotions

Hamilton had to fight hard for the win, born in particular from a second stop as the rain eased and the track began to dry. The 39-year-old opted for a final stint on soft tyres for the final 15 laps.

When he undercut leader Lando Norris, who pitted a lap later, and was also on soft tyres, it quickly became clear that his biggest rival for victory would be his old rival Max Verstappen.

Verstappen pitted at the end of the same lap as Hamilton, but opted for hard tyres. The Red Bull driver passed McLaren’s Norris on lap 48 of 52 and then set his sights on the Mercedes.

Hamilton, however, produced a stunning performance, squeezing as much energy out of the tyres as Norris, and crossed the finish line to the applause of an adoring crowd. It was his 104th career victory. Nine of those victories came at the British GP. This makes him the first driver to score so many points at the same circuit.

Hamilton explained why the victory was so special. He referred to his title fight with Verstappen in 2021, which ended in the Dutchman’s favour under controversial circumstances. His switch to Ferrari at the end of the year also played a role.

“Ultimately it’s been so long,” Hamilton said. “Someone told me it’s been 946 days or something since the last win.

“Really challenging, a difficult time, obviously, 2021, and then coming back with a car that we haven’t been able to fight with in recent years. It’s been incredibly challenging mentally, for everyone in the team.

“But when you know how hard everyone has worked, when you know how I have managed to keep my head, and then with everything that has happened this year, with so many emotions this year, then it is logical that I announce that I am leaving.

‘At the same time, we started with a car that we didn’t feel we could win with, and we ended up in a place where we could win, and not only that, but we won the British Grand Prix in front of our home crowd.

“Honestly, it’s an incredible honor to stand on the highest podium and hear the national anthem, with the king’s name in it, for example. It’s the first time I experience that. And then my family is there too.”