‘I think we have seen the final changing of the guard’: George Russell is ‘riding the wave’ after replacing Lewis Hamilton as Mercedes’ No 1 driver, says Jacques Villeneuve… as he claims the F1 world champion has been ‘trying not to drown’ this season
- Lewis Hamilton has endured a difficult start to the 2022 Formula One campaign
- The Brit finds himself almost 70 points adrift of current leader Charles Leclerc
- Mercedes team-mate George Russell is also 23 points ahead in the standings
- Ex-champion Jacques Villeneuve feels there has been a ‘changing of the guard’
- He says Russell is ‘riding the wave’ and Hamilton has been ‘trying not to drown’
Lewis Hamilton trailing behind George Russell in the Formula One standings this season represents a ‘changing of the guard’ at Mercedes, says former world champion Jacques Villeneuve.
It has been a frustrating campaign so far for Hamilton, who finds himself almost 70 points behind leader Charles Leclerc down in sixth place following 10th and 13th-place finishes at the Saudi Arabian and Imola Grand Prix.
The seven-time world champion is struggling to adapt to Mercedes’ new heavily ‘porpoising’ W13 car, which has provided difficulty in his first five outings of the season.
Lewis Hamilton trailing behind George Russell has been described as a ‘changing of the guard’
Team-mate Russell is faring slightly better, nevertheless, with consistent top-five finishes in each Grand Prix meaning he sits 23 points ahead of Hamilton.
Villeneuve, who won the 1997 championship with Williams, believes the 24-year-old has been ‘riding the wave’ so far in 2022 – and his more experienced colleague is ‘trying not to drown’.
In his column for Formule1.nl, the Canadian said: ‘I think we have seen the final changing of the guard at Mercedes. 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.
Hamilton is trailing Mercedes team-mate Russell in the F1 drivers’ standings following a disappointing start to the season
Former F1 world champion Jacques Villeneuve believes Russell is ‘riding the wave’ right now
‘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. But I think missing the world title last year is a heavy burden for him that he carried with him all winter. 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.’
Hamilton suffered more disappointment in last weekend’s Miami Grand Prix, paying the price for his ’50/50′ decision not to change tyres during the race.
Mercedes race engineer Peter Bonnington asked the Brit whether he wished to pit during a late safety car, but he opted not to.
Hamilton suffered another blow when Russell finished ahead of him in the Miami Grand Prix
Russell, who did take on new tyres during the period, then ended up overtaking him and finishing one place ahead in fifth.
Hamilton was critical of his team after the blunder, saying: ‘In that scenario, I have no clue where everyone is, so when the team say “it is your choice”, I don’t have the information to make the decision.
‘That’s what your job is. Make the decision for me as you have all the details and I don’t. I rely on the guys for that, but today they gave the decision to me and I didn’t understand it.
‘When you are given that responsibility it feels like gambling and I don’t like that. It was just a bit unfortunate.’
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