Jacques Villeneuve has pinpointed a key area where George Russell seems to outshine the seven-time champion. As Mercedes faces the possibility of another winless season, Villeneuve sheds light on Russell’s apparent advantage and Hamilton’s struggle to adapt to the evolving dynamics of the sport.
Hamilton’s last Grand Prix victory dates back to the 2021 Saudi Arabian GP, marking 44 races without a win—a stark departure from his remarkable record of winning at least one race in each of his first 15 seasons in Formula 1. The 38-year-old, a seven-time champion, is poised for a potentially second winless campaign ahead of the Abu Dhabi GP.
Mercedes, once the benchmark team in Formula 1, has faltered since the introduction of ground-effect cars in 2022. The team’s pursuit of a no-sidepod concept backfired, and their shift in concept this season came too late to regain their dominant position. Red Bull now leads the constructors’ championship with 822 points, leaving Mercedes a substantial 430 points behind.
As Hamilton faces the prospect of finishing third in the drivers’ championship, trailing Max Verstappen and Red Bull’s Sergio Perez, Villeneuve suggests a fundamental reason behind the Briton’s struggles. According to the 1997 F1 champion, Hamilton became accustomed to the dominance of the Silver Arrows, claiming titles and numerous wins from 2014 to 2020.
Villeneuve argues that Russell, at 25 years old, is better equipped to handle the challenges posed by Mercedes’ 2023 F1 car, which he describes as “a very peaky car with a very small window of operation.” Unlike Hamilton, who enjoyed years with an easier car to drive, Russell joined Mercedes for the 2022 season as the team regressed.
“It is pretty hard to set up,” Villeneuve explains about the Mercedes car, highlighting Russell’s proficiency in navigating its complexities. “George seems to be better at that than Lewis, who spent so many years with an easy car to drive. When you have to go back to find that last tenth, you’re not used to it anymore, and you need to get the ball rolling.”