Hamilton may quit Mercedes mid-season - Villeneuve
"It’s a question that will be raised"
While his fans suffer with him amid a rare personal slump, not everyone is unhappy that Lewis Hamilton is struggling in 2022.
"To be honest, I liked it when Max lapped him," world champion Max Verstappen’s father Jos admitted after Imola.
But it wasn’t just a one-off for the seven time world champion - he is struggling even more than his new teammate George Russell with the woeful 2022 Mercedes.
"He has to wonder why Russell is so much faster than him," former F1 driver Ralf Schumacher told Sky Deutschland.
"He has to admit that Russell is the better driver right now. If things continue like this over the next few weeks, things will also get exciting in the team. There may be changes in the hierarchy.
"But I am far from saying that Hamilton missed the moment to retire. However, the new cars require the drivers to adapt a little and Hamilton is not used to that."
After Red Bull’s intense battle with Mercedes and Hamilton last year, Dr Helmut Marko is not so magnanimous.
"Maybe he should have stopped at the end of last year," the 78-year-old said.
As he didn’t quit, though, pundits are now wondering if the 37-year-old will be able to cope with a full season of pain in the badly-’porpoising’ silver car.
"It’s a question that will be raised," 1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve told the Dutch publication Formule 1.
"In the meantime, Mercedes need to learn how to lose now. George Russell is doing a good job as underdog, but he learned this at Williams, while Hamilton always had something to fight for.
"He didn’t look aggressive enough at Imola - like he couldn’t even fight. It’s not easy being the head of the Mercedes team right now.
"As Toto Wolff, do you choose your megastar, your poster boy, the record-breaking champion with the international image who costs you a mega sum of money? Or do you develop the car for the promising talent?
"A big star like Lewis is great if you win, but if you don’t the backlash is so much bigger. A champion doesn’t have the right to be uncompetitive.
"We’ve been surprised in the past," Villeneuve concluded. "It has happened before that champions sometimes say they’ve just had enough."
For his part, Hamilton is pointing the blame squarely at the car, insisting the W13 Mercedes is "not far from the experience" of the even more woeful 2009 McLaren.