Three-time champion and Formula 1 icon Jackie Stewart has called on Lewis Hamilton to resign while he’s still close to his peak rather than suffer the agony of a long and slow decline.
Hamilton has endured a substantial decline in fortunes this season after claiming six of the last eight world titles. His previously all-conquering Mercedes team is struggling to tame its new car and is way off the pace of leaders Red Bull Racing and Ferrari.
The Briton, who took last year’s title to the wire, is sixth in the championship standings and 98 points off the lead.
Watch every practice, qualifying and race of the 2022 FIA Formula One World Championship™ live on Kayo. New to Kayo? Try 14 days free now >
But his new teammate, George Russell, has enjoyed a more consistent season. Yet to finish lower than fifth and with three podiums so far — one more than Hamilton — the young gun is 34 points up the road and fourth on the table.
Stewart, speaking to the Convex Conversation podcast, says Russell’s lead after nine rounds is a sign Hamilton should call it a day rather than risk losing his grip on the team and his status in the sport.
“He’s now struggling a little bit because he’s had a new teammate who’s been quicker than him in qualifying so far this year, which is going to be difficult for him to handle,” he said. “I think it’s time for him to resign.”
“It’s a pity he wasn’t resigning at the top, but I don’t think that’s going to happen now. But nevertheless it’s wiser to stop than go through all the pain of not being able to do what you did before.
“I would like to see him resigning now.”
Russell’s first full-time season in Mercedes overalls has been undoubtedly impressive. He’s outqualified Hamilton, who is F1’s most prolific pole-getter, five times so far this season and had drummed up seven straight intrateam race victories before the Canadian Grand Prix, which is an equal-best record among all of Hamilton’s teammates.
But Hamilton will fairly argue that he’s carried the great burden in Mercedes’s pursuit to unlock what it believes is hidden pace inside its car. The seven-time champion has regularly sacrificed practice session and even qualifying and race days running extreme set-ups or test parts to gather data, so far largely in vain.
After finishing third in Canada, the Briton joked that “maybe in the second half of the season George can do the experiments” after making last-minute configuration changes before qualifying.
“Moving forward, I think we’ll be a little bit more cautious on doing too many experiments, as it really does hinder you through the weekend,” he said.
And Stewart acknowledged Hamilton’s standing in the sport as one of the greatest of all time, a status to which his swag of all-time records attest, likening him to a cast of icons from grand prix racing’s long history.
“[Tazio] Nuvolari and [Rudolf] Caracciola way back in the 20s and 30s — there’s always somebody up there, whether it’s Jim Clark [or] Juan Manuel Fangio, who is the ultimate god for me,” he said.
“Lewis is in that group of the Ayrton Sennas and the Alain Prosts — or even the Jackie Stewarts maybe! He’s carried the sport very well.”
But her remained convinced that the time was right for Hamilton to move on from Formula 1.
“He’s got music, he’s got culture, he loves clothing, and the rag trade would be absolutely suitable for him,” Stewart said. “I’m sure he’ll be very successful, because he’s been earning a huge amount of money — rightfully so, because he’s been the best of his time, and that’s the best you can do.”
Verstappen cruises to Canadian GP win | 02:13
Speaking earlier in the season in response to speculation from two-time champion Mika Häkkinen that he would be looking to jump ship due to Mercedes’s struggles, Hamilton insisted he was committed to the long haul with the team.
“I’ve been with Mercedes since I was 13,” he said. We’ve had amazing times together, we’ve ridden the highs and lows together.
“I’m 100 per cent committed to this team. There’s nowhere else I want to be.
“Just because we’ve hit a rough patch, it’s just not in my DNA to back away.
“We’re still world champions. We can fix this, it’s just going to take longer.
“This is going to be a painful year that we’re going to ride out together and with the belief that we can rectify it at some point during the year or, worst-case scenario, next year.”