BAKU, Azerbaijan –
Formula One superstar Lewis Hamilton is struggling with a back injury a week before the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal.
The seven-time world champion said he was “praying” for Sunday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix in Baku to end, and was clutching his back as he gingerly climbed out of his Mercedes after finishing fourth.
The 37-year-old has complained about the Mercedes’ tendency to bounce at high speed.
“There were a lot of moments when I didn’t know whether I was going to make it and if I was going to be able to keep the car on track,” Hamilton told reporters Sunday. “That was the most painful and toughest race I have experienced.
“I was just holding and biting down on my teeth due to the pain. The adrenalin helped, but I cannot express the pain that you experience, particularly on the (very fast) straight. I was just praying for it to end.”
He told Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff: “Let’s definitely make some changes.”
Rule changes this season have meant lower ride heights and stiffer suspensions for cars, and Mercedes cars have bottomed out at high speeds.
Wolff told Hamilton over the team radio towards the end of the race: “Lewis, we all know this is a bit of a s***box to drive and sorry for the back,” Wolff said. “We will sort ourselves out.”
Wolff told reporters in Baku he would consider using a reserve driver in Montreal if Hamilton is still suffering.
Mercedes’ backup drivers are Stoffel Vandoorne and Nyck de Vries.
Hamilton’s absence would be a massive blow for the Montreal race at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, which is being held for the first time since 2019. The 2020 and 2021 races were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hamilton is sixth in the drivers’ standings with 88 points. Red Bull’s Max Verstappen is the leader.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 12, 2022.