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Hamilton faces tall order to get on podium at Monaco GP

BSR Agency / Getty Images Sport / Getty

MONACO (AP) — Lewis Hamilton was faced with a tricky question at the Monaco Grand Prix on Thursday: will it be easier getting a podium this season or learning Italian ahead of next year?

The Mercedes driver laughed, but he was clearly in two minds about it.

“I think learning Italian's going to be the hardest, probably," Hamilton said. "But, jeez, at the moment getting to the podium probably is the less likely one."

Hamilton is in his final year with Mercedes before joining Italian manufacturer Ferrari in 2025.

The seven-time Formula 1 champion has not won for Mercedes since the penultimate race of the 2021 campaign, and the 39-year-old British driver has not finished higher than sixth position seven races into this one.

Furthermore, Hamilton's run without a podium at all stretches to 10 races dating back to last year. It could easily be 11 after Sunday's Monaco GP, where pole position is crucial on a tight and sinewy 3.3-kilometer (two-mile) street circuit that is so difficult for overtaking.

Given Mercedes' lack of pace compared to rival cars, a Monaco pole in qualifying on Saturday seems highly unlikely. Hamilton hasn't started from higher than seventh on the grid this year, and he is only eighth in the overall standings.

It's a far cry from his glory days with Mercedes, but no amount of worrying statistics will detract from the pure enjoyment he still gets from racing around the tiny Principality.

“Monaco is more special than any other street circuit,” Hamilton said. "When you’re going through the tunnel and you know that Ayrton (Senna) and (Alain) Prost and all the greats before you got to drive through there. It's very, very surreal to think today that I'm one of the 20 (drivers) who's doing it."

Hamilton still recalls his first impressions of setting foot in Monaco.

“I first came here when I was 13 and that really opened my eyes, that became a dream. It was like ‘OK, this is the most beautiful place I’ve ever been, this is where I want to live,'” Hamilton said. “Driving for the first time here when I was 18, 19, I think it was in Formula 3. I had a little scooter that I rented and I was running around town. It was just epic.”

Many years later, with an F1 record 103 race wins and 104 poles to his name, Hamilton's love of street circuits remains as high as ever — even if he's no longer a favorite to win.

“They're a lot more violent, a lot more challenging,” he said. “More risky, more hair-raising.”


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