Lewis Hamilton & Charles Leclerc surprising F1 statistic after Hungary GP

Lewis Hamilton & Charles Leclerc surprising F1 statistic after Hungary GP

This was Ferrari’s and Charles Leclerc’s season. Or so it seemed.

Heading into the 2022 season and a new era of regulations aimed at promoting more competitive racing, Ferrari looked best set to take on Mercedes’ mantle as the superior constructors following eight consecutive years of Brackley-based engineering dominance.

Victory in the season opener at Bahrain only added weight to this viewpoint, as the legendary Italian constructors aimed to end 15 years of pain since their previous victory in the Drivers’ Championship (recently retired Kimi Raikkonen in 2007).

Fast forward four months and the Monegasque is sat in second place in the individual standings, with the gap to reigning champion Max Verstappen an overwhelming 80 points and growing.

To add insult to injury, consecutive absences from the top three have allowed Lewis Hamilton to overtake him in podiums clocked up this season: 6 to 5.

This leaves Leclerc fifth in the podium leaderboard – behind Verstappen, Carlos Sainz, Sergio Perez and now the seven-time world champion.

The narratives could not have been in sharper contrast between Leclerc and his Ferrari and Hamilton and his Mercedes heading into the new season.

Coming off the monumental blow of losing his title on the final race of 2021 in controversial circumstances, Hamilton only committed to his Mercedes seat in February, and after torrid pre-season testing in Bahrain and Barcelona was followed by a solitary podium in the first eight races of the season, things looked bleak for the Brit.

Complaints about the car and its difficult handling, paired with being outperformed by consistent new teammate George Russell set the tone of what was shaping up to be the annus horribilis of Hamilton’s career.

And yet here we are at the summer break, with written off Hamilton ahead of title contender Leclerc in podium finishes.

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The negativity that surrounded the veteran and his car have been replaced with a surge in optimism and talk of claiming a first victory of the season, while the atmosphere around Ferrari has soured.

Maiden pole and race victory for Sainz at Silverstone were followed up by victory in Austria for Leclerc to generate some positivity around the Ferrari camp. However, the team were brought tumbling back to earth with yet another unconverted pole from Leclerc in the French Grand Prix, followed by Sunday’s disastrous sixth-place finish in Hungary, and they are reaching the point of conceding the title to Verstappen and Red Bull.

Questions will continue to pop up over Ferrari and their baffling race strategies this season – particularly their decision to put Leclerc on hard tyres despite softs being the right play – but nothing should be taken away from Hamilton.

The man from Stevenage has once again proved that he cannot be written off, and like all great champions, he has come through a turbulent spell smelling like roses. Maybe that first win of the season isn’t so far away after all.

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