How the mighty can fall. Formula One’s 7 time world champion Lewis Hamilton is having a miserable year. He has only finished ahead of his young gun team mate twice in nine races and is a lowly 6th in the drivers’ championship 98 points behind leader Max Verstappen.
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff claimed in January, “I really hope we see him [Hamilton] again. It would be a disgrace for the whole of F1 if the best driver decided to retire because of outrageous decisions.”
Toto was referring to decisions made by the race director at the final round of the 2021 season which decided the title in Max Verstappen’s favour.
Hamilton ‘unfollowed’ everyone on instagram just days after the disappointment in Abu Dhabi fuelling speculation he would retire from Formula One. To the delight of his fans, Hamilton re-appeared on social media some two months later posting “I’ve been gone. Now I’m back.”
Yet Hamilton’s poor form relative to his team mate has persistently promoted speculation that the British driver will quit the sport.
Hamilton was lapped by Max Verstappen at the 2022 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix and Helmut Marko, Red Bull’s consultant, then suggested Hamilton should have retired at the top.
On the bumpy streets of Baku Lewis’ complained over the pit radio that his back was “killing me” and following the race struggled to climb out of his car unassisted. Toto Wolff suggested his driver would not be fit enough to race the following week inn Canada, though Lewis Hamilton quickly denied that he would miss the Montreal race.
At times there appears to be some difference of opinion, even friction, between the Mercedes boss and Hamilton this season. Lewis recently complained he was the team’s ‘guinea pig’ and “Maybe in the second half of the season, George can do the experiments!”.
Recently a number of F1 legends have suggested it might be time for Hamilton to retire based on Wolff’s comments that Lewis had become disillusioned with Formula One.
The latest comments suggesting there may be a rift developing between Lewis and Toto come from ex-F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone who appears to have some inside knowledge.
“Toto is getting a bit fed up with Lewis”, Ecclestone told the Daily Mail.
The 91 year old questions whether Hamilton is really trying. “Lewis doesn’t seem bothered about losing. It’s not like him. He has a competitive nature”.
Ecclestone believes Hamilton is too sanguine about being consistently beaten by his team mate, “He’s taking losing a bit too easy for my liking”.
Astonishingly Ecclestone believes Lewis will take a deal from Mercedes to retire, suggesting that Wolff could end up netting £20m from paying Hamilton out of his contract at a reduced rate.
The problem for Lewis is this story will just not go away.
Maybe Toto Wolff shouldn’t have floated the idea following his lost title in Abu Dhabi and compounding matters is Hamilton’s poor performance relative to his team mate who has finished in the top 5 in each of the 2022 9 rounds so far.
Then again speaking after practice last week in Canada, while complaining about the new FIA car design regulations Hamilton said, “so hopefully that is not something that is going to deter me from racing longer.”
Martin Brundle recently stated he had changed his views on whether Mercedes can fix the troublesome W13 car, something which Lewis Hamilton is clearly very unhappy with.