Opinion | Sir Jackie Stewart gets it wrong: Hamilton won't leave F1

Opinion | Sir Jackie Stewart gets it wrong: Hamilton won't leave F1

23 June - 12:26 Last update: 14:51

Sir Jackie Stewart feels like it’s time for Lewis Hamilton to resign from Formula 1. The seven-time World Champion has struggled this season with an under performing car, and is behind George Russell in the teammate duel, though in qualifying it’s 4-5. Sir Jackie Stewart doesn’t get many things wrong, but on this occasion he’s missed the mark. 

For the first time this season, Hamilton had a spring in his step and delight as Mercedes improved. On Sunday, they matched the leaders’ race pace at certain points and yielded a podium. It seemed like Hamilton found some light at the end of the tunnel. 

Plenty of time left for Hamilton

I’ll be frank with this one. Hamilton isn’t going to retire any time soon. He’s absolutely not going to walk away from his contract. That’s not in the Hamilton family mentality, and would make everything else he’s said during his time at Mercedes look weaker in regards to the whole ‘we’ll keep fighting' message. 

But regardless of how he feels, he shouldn’t do it anyway. He is a fantastic asset to Formula 1, Mercedes and sport itself. He is a top-quality Formula 1 driver and statistically the greatest of all time. Perhaps he now has the opportunity to raise his status by turning a weaker car into a Championship contender for 2023 where, in all likelihood, he will be fighting against Red Bull and Ferrari on roughly equal terms. 

This is a chance for the British driver to prove he is amongst the greats. Bouncing back, pun not intended, through 2022 and into the 2023 season could turn out to be his greatest story yet. And that has to inspire him. 

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It’s not absolutely guaranteed that Hamilton’s career will end when his contract finishes in 2023. To some extent, it will depend on where Mercedes are in the World Championship. Recently Kimi Raikkonen, and now Fernando Alonso, proved that it’s possible to stay in Formula 1 during your 40s. Hamilton has three and a half years on Alonso, and odds are the Spaniard stays in F1 next season. 

Sir Jackie Stewart has got most things right in F1, but on this occasion he is wrong. In the Convex Conversation Podcast, he gave his reasoning. “He’s now struggling a little bit because he’s had a new teammate who’s been quicker than him in qualifying so far, which is gonna be difficult for him to handle.”

Hamilton is behind 4-5 in the qualifying teammate duel with George Russell. He is ahead in terms of the average time difference but only by 0.003 seconds. Whilst it is the closest teammate duel on the grid and by some distance closer than he has experienced in recent years, it is not convincing and hard conclusions cannot be drawn either way. Especially when there’s more than half of the seasoning remaining. 

In the qualifying session for the Spanish Grand Prix, Mercedes found some improvements. Russell out-qualified Hamilton, but the delta continuously changed throughout much of the lap. On the majority of straights, Russell had a clear advantage. In the majority of corners, Hamilton had the advantage, probably pointing to a set-up difference as Mercedes explore their issues. 

The point is that the writing isn’t on the wall yet for Hamilton. And Russell himself knows full well, as he has mentioned on Sky Sports enough times, that Hamilton will pull it together. Perhaps Stewart is trying to put fire into Hamilton’s belly ahead of the British Grand Prix that’s next on the schedule. 

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