Age might be starting to catch up with Lewis Hamilton, according to Sky Sports F1 pundit Damon Hill.
The 1996 Formula 1 world champion suggested that Hamilton is beginning to show signs that he has lost some of his natural speed behind the wheel, evidenced by his struggles in qualifying alongside teammate George Russell.
Hamilton, 38, has always been notorious for his single-lap pace, and although he leads Russell on points race after three races of the 2023 F1 season, he has yet to out-qualify his 25-year-old teammate.
Russell replaced Valtteri Bottas ahead of the 2022 season and went on to outscore Hamilton – something the Finn never managed in five years – and picked up Mercedes‘ only win of a disappointing campaign.
It’s a pattern Hill says he has seen before when a young hotshot driver arrives at a new team to take on the elder statesman.
“Drivers in their late 30s can no longer do those absolutely absurd kind of transcendental laps that they used to be able to do when they were in their 20s.” Hill told the F1 Nation podcast.
“George is super quick, and he’s revelling in the early part of his career and he’s got this speed.
“I don’t know if Lewis has acknowledged that he can’t match that, or I’m sure he will eventually.
“But, I mean, it’s possible that that instinctive unconscious speed is starting to leave him, it does happen. Niki Lauda had Alain Prost arrive.
“When the older, experienced driver is faced by the speed of a young arrival, they can get depressed about it or devote their energy to making sure the outcome in the race is the thing that matters.”
‘George has to do the hard work’
Despite heaping praise on Russell, Hill admitted the 25-year-old still has to prove he has what it takes to fight for a world championship should Mercedes recover from their slump and return to winning regularly.
“George has to work very hard to become a valuable asset to the team, which he is doing,” Hill added.
“He has to do the hard work, Lewis doesn’t. They know that if Hamilton is given the opportunity, he will be back in top form and will be able to offer extraordinary races.
“They also know that George can do that, but he still has to prove it.”