Former Formula 1 champion Jacques Villeneuve believes that Mercedes star Lewis Hamilton is still bitter about his controversial title loss to Max Verstappen at the season-ending Formula 1 showdown in Abu Dhabi last year.
The Canadian who is known for his controversial opinions thinks that last year’s title loss is having an impact on Hamilton’s performances this season, with the seven-time world champion trailing his new teammate George Russell in the 2022 Drivers’ Championship after the first five rounds of the championship.
“I think missing the world title last year is a heavy burden for him that he carried with him all winter,” Villeneuve told Formule1.nl.
“He was bitter and feels that he was robbed. But you can see from the way Max drives that he didn’t steal the title at all and is a deserved champion.
“Lewis’ champion’s luck seems to have left him, he doesn’t have the momentum and nothing’s going his way. It’s going to be a tough fight, but Lewis is a racer and a champion. He knows what needs to be done and we’ll see if he still has the energy to do it.”
Russell takes advantage
Hamilton’s relatively poor performances have played nicely into Russell’s hands with the former Williams driver outperforming Hamilton, especially at the previous round in Imola. Villeneuve believes that a changing of the guards has taken place at Mercedes with Hamilton no longer the team’s de facto number one driver.
“I think we have seen the final changing of the guard at Mercedes,” Villeneuve explained.
“George Russell is riding the wave, Lewis Hamilton is trying not to drown. After many years of winning without competition, it’s hard to wake up and realise it’s not that easy. He now has to drive like he did in his first two years in Formula 1, which is what Russell is doing now.
“In the race Russell took the decision: leave me out, maybe a safety car will come – and it paid off.”
Verstappen a worthy champion
The Canadian also gushed about Verstappen with Villeneuve highlighting the Dutchman’s consistency despite prevailing after an epic title fight with Hamilton in 2021.
“In the last two races, Max has certainly shown that he deserved the title,” Villenueve elaborated.
“A car can always break down, but apart from that, he’s always competing for the win. He drives almost flawlessly, and when he makes an error, he corrects it. He drives at the peak of his abilities, on the edge.
“He makes the best of what he can control. There has not been a single race in which he’s given less than the best – we saw that again in Miami.
“Max has been impressive from the start of the season. He is driving like he drove last year. Normally you might be a bit tired after a championship year, but you can see that nothing has changed. In fact, he’s just got stronger. He’s been released from that championship pressure – he’s shown that he can win a title.”