F1 pundit Peter Windsor fears a George Russell title triumph in the event of a Mercedes return to form would only add to the pain of Abu Dhabi 2021 for Lewis Hamilton.
Hamilton was infamously denied a record-breaking eighth World Championship at the 2021 season finale, where F1’s race director made a controversial call to set up a grandstand finish between the Mercedes driver and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.
On significantly fresher tyres, Verstappen overtook Hamilton during the one-lap sprint to the finish to secure his maiden title.
Verstappen went on to add a second crown in 2022 and currently leads the 2023 standings by six points, whereas Hamilton has not added to his collection of 103 grand prix victories in the time since Abu Dhabi 2021 and endured the first winless campaign of his career last season.
With Mercedes still short of competing for regular victories, Hamilton has been restricted to just a single podium in the opening four races of 2023 with team-mate Russell, who took Mercedes’ only win of 2022 in Brazil, outqualifying him at the first three rounds.
Hamilton has insisted he will remain in F1 until an eighth title comes his way, but the 38-year-old faces a race against time to make up for the disappointment of his Abu Dhabi 2021 defeat.
And speaking during a recent YouTube stream, Windsor suspects a nightmare scenario could unfold for Hamilton if Mercedes enjoy a return to form in the near future.
Asked by a viewer if Hamilton can return to title-winning contention or is destined to retire as a seven-time World Champion, he replied: “I fear the latter.
“You’re really asking me: ‘Do you think Mercedes can win a World Championship again inside the window of Lewis’s logical career limits?’
“And it’s difficult to see that happening, isn’t it? It’s difficult.
“Even if Mercedes really get it together, it’s difficult to see them doing a much better job than Red Bull and, simultaneously, Ferrari doing a worse job than both of those two – and Aston Martin not coming anywhere.
“So a lot’s got to happen for Lewis to be [in that position] and then to beat George Russell.
“Just imagine if Mercedes did actually, in the second half of this year, produce a great car for whatever reason – suddenly right up there with the Red Bulls, actually beating the Red Bulls, outqualifying them and winning five of the last eight races.
“Let’s say the Mercedes did that and they went into next year and they’ve got a car quite capable of winning the World Championship.
“Imagine if it was George Russell that won the Championship – and not Lewis – in that situation.
“But of course, that could happen. That could easily happen.
“George would have by far enough experience by then, be quick enough and by the law of averages – things could happen to Lewis, things could happen to George – it could go George’s way.
“That would make what happened in Abu Dhabi ’21 look tame if that happened.
“Lewis finally has his chance to win his eighth Championship that he should have won in Abu Dhabi – and it goes to George! Caramba!
“That could happen. Be ready for it.”