Sir Lewis Hamilton has responded to 1997 Formula 1 world champion Jacques Villeneuve’s comments about his poor adaptability to the 2022 Mercedes car.
Mercedes have been adversely affected by the arrival of the new technical regulations as they attempt to get to the bottom of a litany of issues such as “porpoising” and other handling difficulties.
Hamilton and team-mate George Russell have mustered a podium a piece after capitalising on reliability woes for Red Bull in the opening three races of the 2022 season, but this has done little to mask the fact that they have been a considerable distance adrift off the pace of the Milton Keynes squad and championship leaders Ferrari.
After a scintillating performance in Saudi Arabia, coupled with some slight pit lane misfortune for his team-mate, Russell ended the race in Jeddah fifth, with the 37-year-old down in 10th having been wrestling with the Mercedes all weekend.
It is clear that both of the Britons are having to show enormous fortitude in what has been a surprisingly difficult start to the year for the Silver Arrows, but Villeneuve indicated that Russell has acclimatised himself to it a lot better than Hamilton.
“George Russell can still handle the car to some degree. Maybe that’s because of his years at Williams where he also had to drive a difficult car,” he said.
“But Lewis Hamilton is not coping at all. He’s always had a perfect car, he never had to push because they were so much faster. In the race yesterday he did alright, but on Saturday he was nowhere to be seen.
“The car does not seem to suit his driving style at the moment.”
These comments arrived after one underwhelming performance from the 103-time race winner, and as such he has no time to regard the remarks from the Canadian who has become notorious for his hot takes since his F1 career ended in 2006.
“I find it amusing, some of the things that come out of his mouth,” responded Hamilton, as quoted by RacingNews365.com.
“I remember my first go-kart was fifth-hand. I’ve driven lots of different cars and found myself relatively adaptable, so I should be good.”
On his relationship with Russell, the 37-year-old quipped that he is enjoying having a younger team-mate, despite the five-year head start he also has on 32-year-old former team-mate Valtteri Bottas.
“It’s good to be with someone younger, you know? I was just saying earlier how old Valtteri is! He’s got an old soul,” he joked, before the Finn reminded him: “You’re older than me man!”
On a more serious note, the former McLaren driver enjoyed the dynamic he had with Bottas, but has been spending some time away from the racetrack getting to know his compatriot a little better, so he is consequently growing fond of Russell too.
“It was obviously an amazing journey that Valtteri and I had, working together, and George was already a part of the team before that, so he’s blended in really well,” he added.
“I think George has been great, I think he’s been great for the team. We were surfing the other day together [and] he’s blended really well into the team.”
Villeneuve’s comments came before the Australian Grand Prix, at which Hamilton out-qualified Russell for the second time this season, before a slice of luck with the Safety Car helped the former Williams driver to his first Mercedes podium.