Jackie Stewart: “Lewis no longer has that hunger” – Mercedes had a strange weekend in Monza, despite finally announcing both their drivers would be staying with the team for a further two season, the atmosphere in the camp was strangely subdued.
Instead of a happy Lewis Hamilton eulogising over his next two years in Formula One with the team he loves, the paddock media was greeted on Friday with a sullen ex-champion attacking the record of Max Verstappen.
Hamilton dismissed Verstappen competition
Lewis claimed, “in my personal opinion,” he told Sky F1, “all my team-mates have been stronger than the teammates Max has had: Jenson, Fernando, George, Valtteri, Nico.
“I’ve had so many. These guys have all been very, very strong, very consistent – and Max has not raced against anyone like that.”
Toto Wolff joined the petty party when asked to comment on Verstappen’s remarkable and historic run of ten consecutive F1 race wins.
The Mercedes boss claimed when his team were dominant, “we had two drivers fighting against each other within the team,” confirming Hamilton’s accusation.
Wolff’s comments backfire
To the question of Verstappen’s consecutive victories, Wolff churlishly replied: “It’s not something that would be important for me, any of those numbers.
“It’s for Wikipedia and nobody reads that anyway.”
Yet as TJ13 noted the other day, Wikipedia receives over 3 billion reads a year and of course has recorded the record eight consecutive F1 team titles Mercedes achieved between 2014-2021.
When asked about his new contract Hamilton chose to focus on the next deal he would achieve with Mercedes giving the impression he had been denied a the five year contract extension his management team had suggested he had requested.
Stewart: Hamilton “no competition”
Sir Jackie Stewart who has been a long standing admirer of Hamilton’s seemed perplexed by Hamilton’s claims that each of his team mates were stronger than anything Verstappen had faced when speaking to Bild.
“First of all, Lewis is one of the best to ever drive in Formula 1,” he said contradicting Toto Wolff’s assertion that Lewis was the best F1 driver of all time.
”But the truth is that in the last decade he competed with Mercedes – a team that had virtually no competition,” added the three time world champion.
Hamilton has only failed to beat his team mate in four of the sixteen complete seasons he has raced in Formula One, but Sir Jackie observes much of this was during his time at Mercedes.
Rosberg “not the most talented”
“During this time, Lewis only had one real competitor – his respective team-mate. Except for 2016, he always emerged victorious from the duel. And then he lost to Nico Rosberg.
“With respect, [Rosberg is] a good driver, but not the most talented in the world.”
Clearly Stewart’s quite opposite view of Hamilton’s team mates would suggest Lewis is deluded.
And in a warning to Hamilton about the future, Stewart believes it was the hunger for success which had driven Rosberg to new heights when he claimed his F1 title.
“Lewis no longer has that hunger”
“Rosberg was hungry and had the absolute will to become world champion. Lewis no longer has that hunger. Because of that – and because the car is no longer quite as powerful – he has serious problems,” concluded Stewart.
Of course George Russell is setting out on his Mercedes career and having beaten Hamilton last year, will be hungry for more success against a benchmark team mate who many believe is the best of all time.
Whilst tied with Michael Schumacher on seven F1 driver titles, Sir Jackie Stewart believes the current state of Mercedes means Hamilton will not advance this number any further.
“That [eighth title] also depends on Mercedes. It’s not impossible, but I still don’t think he’ll be able to do it. And I don’t think – despite the rumours about Ferrari – that he will change teams again,” concluded the 84 year old Scott.
Hamilton signs of decline
At the recent Dutch Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton showed signs of decline when despite coming home a distant P6 and having qualified just 13th, he claimed he would have been challenging for the lead of the race had things gone his way.
“I think today I had the pace, in the conditions and if we made the right call, I had the pace to challenge the top two. I think we would have been challenging, particularly when we got to the dry,” said Lewis.
In Lewis analysis of events where the rain came heavily on lap one, he suggested he was merely a passenger to the team’s directive to stay on dry weather tyres.
However, other drivers were deciding for themselves it was time to switch to the intermediate rubber. Charles Leclerc left his communication so late that he was coming in to switch rubber, that the Ferrari team didn’t have time to fetch the wet weather tyres for his car. Leclerc mused he knew this would be a problem but that “it was still quicker” than doing another lap.
Lewis merely blames the team
Christian Horner revealed to the media that Sergio Perez who stopped a lap earlier than Verstappen had also made the decision against the team’s initial advice to stay out because he too wanted to change from dry to wet weather tyres.
Of course this gave Perez the lead of the race when the others finally made the same decision one lap later.
Damon Hill was critical of Lewis decision making in his comments following the race. He told Sky F1, “It seems to me that when all the confusion is out of the way, and he just gets on with driving, then he’s the fastest driver.
“But when there are lots of decisions to make, and there’s a bit of confusion between what the team wants and what he wants, then it makes him a little bit hesitant.”
Hill says Hamilton gets confused
Hill continued that at times it is the driver’s responsibility to explain to the team how bad the conditions really are given many of them are huddled in a dry room behind the garage or even back at the factory base in a communications centre.
“It was raining quickly and very hard,” Hill reminded the viewers. The driver also has a responsibility to give a clue about what’s going on.
“You can see, when you go around, you should’ve been able to see that there was rain coming.
“It may have been possible to say: Listen, I’m coming in, we’re not going to get it round another lap’.”
Mercedes miss the boat
Mercedes re-signed Hamilton because of his record with the team yet this may prove to be a mistake given the signs Lewis abilities are on the wain.
They could – and maybe should – have followed the example of the ruthless nature of Frank Williams who sacked Damon Hill following his title winning year. Yet the relatively inexperienced Toto Wolff decided to re-sign Hamilton, despite emerging talent being on offer to replace the ageing champion.
— Scuderia Ferrari (@ScuderiaFerrari) September 1, 2023