Perhaps no driver on the Formula One grid will be happier to see the end of 2022 than Lewis Hamilton following the worst year of his career.
The seven-time champion himself will tell you that – and he already has – revealing his delight at never again having to drive the Mercedes W13 car that left him unable to battle for a championship for the first time in nine years.
‘I’m looking forward to the end of Tuesday [the post-season test in Abu Dhabi] which is the last time I have to drive this thing and I don’t ever plan to drive this one again,’ he said ahead of the final race of the campaign.
There has even been talks of Hamilton leaving Mercedes when his contract is up at the end of 2023 – although team boss Toto Wolff is confident he will stay.
A casual glance at his results over the year soon holds all the answers as to why he has such a disdain for the Mercedes car that appears to have given the Brit nothing but misery.
The big takeaway is the wins column that reads a big fat zero – marking the first time Hamilton has gone through an entire year without a grand prix victory since he burst onto the scene as a championship contender in 2007 with McLaren.
There are other interesting pointers too. He was also beaten by his team-mate for the first-time since 2016 when he he was pipped to the championship by Nico Rosberg.
Observers outside of F1 may now think the Brit, who turns 38 in January, is now simply past his best. All the great champions have to exit at some point and Father Time waits for no-one – especially elite athletes as they progress through their 30s.
Yet, despite all of the above you would have to be a fool to write off Hamilton now.
There were times he was incredibly unfortunate – especially up against Russell – in a car that for most of the season was nowhere near the quality of the runaway Red Bulls and even at times Ferrari. Not even the racing driver of your choice in their prime could have stopped Verstappen bulldozing his way to a second utterly dominating championship.
Mercedes knew their season was in huge danger when their unique ‘no sidepods’ approach didn’t deliver the numbers on track that it did in simulation over the winter. This required in the early races more testing and risky set-ups during grand prix weekends to try and find answers. Much of the responsibility fell on Hamilton given his Mercedes knowledge and experience. His early results showed there were no easy or quick answers.