The Lewis Hamilton era of Formula 1 is over, a Dutch pundit Rob Kamphues has declared.
The seven-time world champion hasn’t won since the penultimate race of his controversial 2021 title defeat to Max Verstappen and suffered the first winless season of his F1 career in 2022.
To make matters worse, Mercedes have been slow out the gates again in 2023 after sticking with the ‘zero sidepod’ design and look set for another season of mediocrity.
At age 38, that leaves Hamilton in a tricky spot should he desire a record-breaking eighth world championship.
The Brit has said he plans on racing well into his 40s but Dutch F1 pundit Rob Kamphues has ruled out a return to winning ways.
“Can we already conclude that the era of Lewis Hamilton in Formula 1 is over, or is it still too early for that?” Kamphues wrote in a column for Formule 1.nl.
“Have we definitively entered the era of Max Verstappen and his contemporaries and if so, which event do we designate as the ‘Great Tipping Point’?
“Was that Abu Dhabi 2021, where Max squeaked him on the last lap? Could something have snapped in the great champion?
“Lewis hasn’t won a race since that day, he hasn’t achieved pole, he’s never even started from the front row.
“In 2022 he also finished behind his younger teammate in the championship and that younger teammate also won the only race Mercedes won. Not to mention this season.”
Hamilton can look to Prost and Alonso
Red Bull emerged as the sport’s dominant force after the ground-effect regulations were introduced for the 2022 season.
Verstappen comfortably won last year’s title by 146 points and already looks set to enjoy an even smoother ride to glory this season.
Despite this, Hamilton has maintained he can challenge for top honours if Mercedes provide him with the car to do so, with Kamphues adding that he can look to the examples of Alain Prost and Fernando Alonso for encouragement.
“He will remind us of Alain Prost, who left Formula 1 with his tail between his legs in the year that Ayrton Senna became world champion for the third time,” Kamphues continued.
“He did not race in 1992, rejoined Williams in 1993 and promptly became champion himself for a fourth time.
“Lewis will point to Alonso and say, ‘How many times have you written him off?’
“After his failure at Ferrari, his failed adventure at McLaren and again last winter when he moved from Renault to Aston Martin.
“And look how it now drives the stars from heaven again.
“In other words, it is too early to definitively determine that the era of Lewis is over. But it is. Call me in five years and tell me I was right.”
Is there a way back for Mercedes?
Kamphues also believes the raft of departures from Mercedes is evidence that the team will struggle to find a route back to the top of the pecking order, with or without Hamilton.
James Vowles announced he would be joining Williams as their team principal ahead of the 2023 season, while Hamilton‘s long-time physio Angela Cullen has also left her role.
That comes after chief designer James Allison, the former Lotus and Ferrari technical boss, opted to step back at the end of 2021.
“It also seems that the era of Mercedes is over,” Kamphues added.
“The idea that the empire is collapsing is also confirmed by the transfer of team boss-designate James Vowles to Williams and the departure of Lewis’ beloved physio Angela Cullen.
“So in a row it’s as clear as a lump, right?”