F1 analyst Peter Windsor fears Lewis Hamilton will no longer “put everything on the line” in F1 unless Mercedes provide him with a car with which he feels “completely comfortable.”
As former title rival Max Verstappen eased to a third successive World Championship in 2023, Hamilton suffered only the second winless season of his entire F1 career.
While Verstappen has won 44 of the last 66 races stretching back to the start of his maiden-title winning campaign in 2021, Hamilton remains without a victory since the penultimate round of that season in Saudi Arabia.
Hamilton sometimes struggled to contain his frustration with Mercedes’ situation in 2023, claiming after the opening round in Bahrain that Mercedes’ technical department had ignored his guidance over the design of the W14 car.
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After a bruising weekend in Japan, meanwhile, the seven-time World Champion commented that Mercedes required “the greatest six months of development ever” to have any hope of challenging Verstappen and Red Bull in 2024.
Speaking via a recent YouTube stream, former title-winning Williams team manager Windsor believes Hamilton, 38, has reached the stage where he is no longer prepared to push the car to its limit unless it is capable of winning races.
And he pointed to the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – where Hamilton struggled to ninth as team-mate George Russell secured his second podium of 2023 with third place – as evidence that he will not be “absolutely out there at George pace” all the time unless the car is of a certain standard.
He said: “One of the reasons Lewis has been so successful is because he’s very intelligent and he’s intelligent enough to know how to pace his life and his career and how to sustain his motivation and his drive.
“He’s done that very well. He’s taken on a lot of criticism – particularly from the British tabloid press – over the years for the way he’s lived his life away from Formula 1.
“But a lot of that has been Lewis knowing that he needs that, otherwise it’s going to overtake him, and I respect that enormously about Lewis.
“I think it’s an interesting Lewis that we’re seeing now. I don’t think it’s the same Lewis, obviously, that we had around in 2007/08.
“I think Lewis now isn’t going to put everything on the line if he doesn’t feel completely comfortable in the car – but I think if he does feel completely comfortable in the car, then I think he’s still quicker than George Russell.
“I think he’s that good. But I think he’s at a point now where he’s not going to do that – he’s not going to be absolutely out there at George pace – unless the car is right. We saw that in Abu Dhabi.”
Windsor’s latest comments come after he claimed Hamilton lacked the bravery of Russell in qualifying at the high-speed Las Vegas street circuit, suggesting Russell was “absolutely on top of that Mercedes in a way, sadly, I don’t think Lewis Hamilton could ever do now.”
He went on to argue Mercedes made a mistake by signing Russell to replace Valtteri Bottas in 2022, claiming “you can see it eating into Lewis’s self-confidence and doubt” whenever his team-mate goes faster on track.
Hamilton was the top Mercedes driver in the 2023 standings, finishing third – five places higher than Russell – having outscored his team-mate by 59 points.