Former Formula 1 driver Martin Brundle believes Lewis Hamilton is only now beginning to recover from the heartbreak of his Abu Dhabi 2021 title defeat to Max Verstappen.
Hamilton was infamously denied a record-breaking eighth World Championship in highly controversial circumstances at the 2021 title decider, where the race director’s failure to correctly observe Safety Car procedure generated a grandstand finish.
Having been on course to win both the race and the title until that moment, Hamilton was overtaken during a one-lap sprint to the finish by Verstappen as the Red Bull driver clinched his maiden crown.
While Verstappen went on to take a second successive title last season and currently leads the 2023 standings, Hamilton has yet to win a race since.
The seven-time World Champion suffered the first winless season of his career in 2022 as Mercedes struggled under the new ground effect technical regulations with a car blighted by porpoising throughout the campaign.
Mercedes and Hamilton had both targeted a return to title-winning contention in 2023, but the poor performance of the W14 car at the first round in Bahrain forced team boss Toto Wolff to accept the team had pursued the wrong development path.
Hamilton has appeared on the podium just once in the first four races of the new season, in Australia, and has been behind team-mate George Russell in all but one of the five qualifying sessions so far.
Hamilton qualified 13th for Sunday’s Miami Grand Prix, falling in Q2 for the first time since Monza 2022.
Speaking in his capacity as a Sky Sports F1 pundit in Miami, Brundle – who made 158 grand prix starts between 1984 and 1996 – feels the scars of Abu Dhabi 2021 are only just beginning to heal for Hamilton.
He said: “I think Abu Dhabi 2021 hit Lewis so hard that I’m only really seeing him recover now, if I’m honest, in terms of what you see out on track.
“They haven’t got the car yet [to win].
“It’s a strong statement, but I believe it.”
Mercedes’ poor start to the season has intensified speculation over the future of Hamilton, whose current contract is due to expire at the end of the current campaign.
Recent reports have claimed that Mercedes have identified Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc as Hamilton’s long-term successor, with Wolff admitting at the recent Azerbaijan GP that the Monégasque must feature on any potential shortlist.
Hamilton joined Mercedes from McLaren in 2013 and has since gone on to become the most successful driver in the sport’s history, winning six titles in seven years from the start of F1’s hybrid era in 2014.
The British driver equalled Michael Schumacher’s record of seven World Championships in 2020 and became the first driver to surpass 100 grand prix victories the following year.