A former title challenger and race winner for Ferrari believes the era of Lewis Hamilton victories and title wins has come to an end.
Seven-time F1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton is currently entering his fourth season trying to win a record-breaking eighth World Championship, having been cruelly denied that achievement in the controversial 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix showdown after a year-long title fight.
With Max Verstappen taking that win, and following it up with two more – and far easier – title successes, Eddie Irvine believes Hamilton’s time at the top of Formula 1 has come to a close.
Eddie Irvine: Lewis Hamilton’s prospects depend on Mercedes
With Hamilton going without a race victory in 2022 and ’23 as Mercedes failed to nail the new ground-effect regulations, his chances of winning that elusive record-breaking title are slipping away year by year as time is against the British driver.
At 39 years old, Hamilton is far closer to the end of his F1 career than he is the start – and while Irvine believes victories are still possible for him, titles could be out of reach.
“The era of Hamilton and Mercedes’ triumphs is now over,” the 1999 F1 championship runner-up bluntly said in an interview with Italy’s La Gazzetto dello Sport.
“But Lewis is still a very good driver, very goal-oriented, and willing to get results.
“He is still doing a great job behind the wheel of an F1 car even if the comparison with Verstappen is tough, because Max is younger, has a bit more speed and a huge belief in his own means.
“Hamilton’s prospects will depend on how competitive Mercedes will be in 2024. If Toto Wolff’s team returns to a fast car, then Lewis could certainly win one or more races, something he has failed to do in the last two seasons.
“With his experience, he has shown that he knows how to take every opportunity that comes his way in both qualifying and the race. However, I doubt that he will be able to take the Championship again and realise his dream of winning an eighth title.”
Jenson Button: Lewis Hamilton more hungry than ever
One dissenting voice against Irvine’s opinion is Hamilton’s former team-mate and 2009 F1 World Champion Jenson Button.
The British driver believes that the current tough spell Hamilton is enduring will only be making the seven-time World Champion hungrier than ever to bounce back.
“When you’ve won for so many years and then suddenly that’s taken away from you, it can work in two different ways,” Button told Sky Sports.
“One, you are just like: ‘Well, there’s no point anymore, I want to retire, I’ve been at the peak for so long and now I’ve not won a race in two years’.
“But also it can make you more hungry to get back to that, and Lewis is in that position right now I think.
“Lewis is as good as ever I would say in terms of his outright speed, but also now he seems much more comfortable in himself and confident in his ability, so he makes fewer mistakes. So he’s even better now than he was five or six years ago.”