Hamilton's back pain is just a sign that age is catching up with him

‘Stop acting like a panto dame!’: F1 grandee John Watson says Lewis Hamilton’s back pain is just a sign that age is catching up with him after Mercedes driver struggled to exit car at Azerbaijan GP

  • John Watson suggested Lewis Hamilton acted like a ‘pantomime dame’
  • Mercedes driver was seen struggling to exit his vehicle after Azerbaijan GP 
  • Formula One grandee Watson says it’s a sign that age is catching up to Hamilton

In danger of being a ‘pantomime dame’, as Formula One grandee John Watson suggested last night of Lewis Hamilton, or a victim of seriously incapacitating injuries? Or, indeed, both?

Those were significant questions lying before F1 on Monday.

Hamilton allayed at least some of those worst-case-scenario fears by declaring himself fit and ready to race in Montreal this weekend, despite being jolted so badly in the cockpit of his Mercedes in Azerbaijan on Sunday that he could apparently barely climb out of it.

Lewis Hamilton was seen in discomfort as he exited his vehicle at the Azerbaijan GP

The seven-time world champion said: ‘It was tough and I had some trouble sleeping but I’ve woken up feeling positive today. My back is a little sore and bruised but nothing serious, thankfully.

‘I’ve had acupuncture and physio and I am on the way to my team to work with them on improving. There’s no time like the present to pull together, and we will. I’ll be there this weekend. I wouldn’t miss it for the world.’

But, still, there are apprehensions within the sport over the regulation changes brought in this season, which have reintroduced ‘porpoising’ to the lexicon. You might call it ‘bouncing’ and it seems to jostle a driver’s head and back as they whizz around in excess of 200mph.

As Hamilton’s team-mate George Russell said: ‘When you are travelling on the straight, and you are smashing up and down on the ground, you wouldn’t choose to have it that way.

‘You could compare it to the footballers of the Sixties, Seventies and Eighties when they had the massively heavy footballs.

John Watson says Hamilton was acting like a ‘pantomime dame’ at the Grand Prix

‘Analysis has shown there were health consequences for these chaps who headed the ball, and things were changed. F1 is the centre of innovation and there is no reason why we cannot find a scientific solution for this.’

The chief problem, in truth, for Hamilton is that he is 88 points behind Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who won in Baku to take a firm grip on the title fight, as Ferrari suffered a double retirement.

The Dutchman’s victory places Hamilton sixth in the standings. Russell is fourth and 51 points off the summit. While Hamilton laboured with his bad back, Russell moved freely afterwards and was even spotted running through the paddock. Is old age giving Lewis a painful reminder at 37? While Russell, at 24, is spry?

At issue is the tweaked front wings and a modified car floor. The underbelly is no longer flat but instead shaped like an upside-down aeroplane wing. This sucks the car to the track — meaning it reverberates off its suspension at high speed. 

The 37-year-old driver has struggled getting to grips with Mercedes’ new car this year

Red Bull are relatively fast and smooth, which is why team principal Christian Horner accused Mercedes of ‘b*******’ — in other words, trying to have the regulations rewritten because they have not found an engineering solution to the conundrum. Mercedes could raise the floor, but that would slow them down.

Watson, who won the 1981 British Grand Prix during a stellar career, had sympathy with Hamilton’s plight, but added in an interview with Sportsmail: ‘Lewis needs to be careful not to act like a pantomime dame. It is a very difficult car to drive but at 37 the bones are not as forgiving of an uncomfortable ride.

‘This is a whole new world to Lewis. He has had seven or so years when Mercedes have been dominant and it’s perhaps like a seven-year itch. George looked pretty fresh afterwards and finished third to Lewis’s fourth.

‘Lewis maybe needs to recalibrate and spend less time in the air and more in the gym.’

There are currently no plans to change the regulations. Red Bull, understandably, love them. Mercedes, equally explicably, don’t. The FIA are not budging.

Watson said Hamilton ‘needs to recalibrate and spend less time in the air and more in the gym’

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