Former Formula 1 driver John Watson has told Red Bull that their public mockery of Sir Lewis Hamilton’s misfortunes at Mercedes is potentially harmful to their image.
Hamilton endured a terrible weekend at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix last weekend, as he finished a race outside the top 10 for the first time since 2013 in an “undriveable” Mercedes car.
Conversely, team-mate George Russell climbed up to P4, providing solace to Mercedes in the fact that they are able to mitigate the “porpoising” as well as the multitude of other issues affecting them and extract good results from the car.
The seven-time champion ruled himself out of the title battle after the conclusion of the race, and Red Bull adviser Dr Helmut Marko quipped that the Briton “should have stopped” last year after Max Verstappen, who won the race in Imola, beat Hamilton to the world title in 2021.
Watson acknowledges that the banter from Red Bull is all part of the team’s psychological battle with the Silver Arrows, but advises that they perhaps tone it down a little.
“To use a cricket analogy, they’re sledging him,” he told RacingNews365.com.
“All they’re doing is just adding more discomfort to Mercedes and primarily Lewis. It’s part of the game.
“It doesn’t need to be maybe as blatant, because sometimes it reflects worse on you than it does on the person that you’re doing it to, so it’s a balance of what you say.
“You can make your point, but you don’t have to overegg it.”
Verstappen’s father, Jos, admitted that he “did enjoy” seeing the reigning world champion lap Hamilton after their intense title fight last season, and it was a symbolic moment that epitomised Red Bull’s mastery of the new technical regulations, and Mercedes’ surprising failure to adapt.
Watson, who won five races with Penske and McLaren between 1976 and 1985, divulges that Verstappen will have been rather smug after putting a lap on the 27-year-old.
“At the minute, Mercedes are nowhere near at the races, and it was embarrassing to see Lewis lapped by Max,” he explained.
“That must have given Max enormous self-satisfaction, and the pain, I can imagine, that Lewis would have had to deal with, knowing he’s going to be blue-flagged, to let the guy that turned out to be World Champion…”
The lack of performance from Mercedes, in the 75-year-old’s mind, will be exacerbating Hamilton’s frustration at the controversial manner in which he was denied his eighth title last year.
“It must rancor with Lewis, to be in the situation that he’s in, having been denied – because of, in my view, bad judgments in Abu Dhabi – that eighth championship, and I think there is also a legacy of that still with Lewis,” added the Briton.
“It’s made worse by the fact that Mercedes has not got a competitive car that is currently capable of challenging for the championship, [or] being as dominant as it has been over the previous seven seasons.”
Mercedes were passed by Red Bull in the Constructors’ Standings in Imola as the Milton Keynes side claimed their first one-two since the Malaysian Grand Prix of 2016.