Sir Jackie Stewart this week called on Lewis Hamilton to retire. The three-time world champion said of the seven-time winner: ‘It’s time to resign. He’s got music, he’s got culture, he loves clothing, and the rag trade would be absolutely suitable for him.
‘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.’
Jonathan McEvoy, who has covered Hamilton’s entire career since just before he burst on to the Formula One scene in 2007, looks at the case for and against the 37-year-old Mercedes driver calling it a day.
SirJackie Stewart (left) recently called on Lewis Hamilton (right) to retire from Formula One
ABU DHABI 2021
This contentious race will act as a fulcrum in Lewis’s story, for good or bad.
He lost out on his much-desired eighth world title in the most acrimonious of circumstances to Max Verstappen. This was a blow to Lewis’s solar plexus, one he spent the winter trying to recover from. His father, Anthony, and step-mother, Linda, shared an unusually long amount of time with him in America trying to lift his spirits.
Despite his team principal Toto Wolff wondering if Lewis would be back — and insiders talking about it being heartache from which he would never recover — Hamilton returned for this season.
For the first time, he wore a slight paunch (a very slight one). It, perhaps, told of a difficult off-season. The psychological impact was greater than the physical, as all would admit.
The psychological impact of the disappointment in Abu Dhabi last year was big on Hamilton
At 24, his team-mate George Russell is full of belief, and exhibits an excess of pace.
One doctor who deals with various drivers opined, privately, that the younger Englishman is the fittest man on the grid. That must be sobering for Hamilton, who was that thruster once.
For the moment, George is biding his time. Russell, playing a longer game, is speaking warmly of Lewis at every opportunity.
George Russell has out-qualified, out-raced and out-scored the main man so far this year
They get on well. Nothing is especially forced in the sorcerer-and-apprentice relationship. But, just as Russell did when he stepped in for Hamilton when his senior partner was down with Covid in 2020 in Bahrain, he is providing a benchmark.
In Bahrain, Russell took to a cockpit for which he was too big, in shoes too small, and served up a performance so good that Hamilton walked off his sick bed to deny him a repeat embarrassment in the next race.
This season, Russell has out-qualified, out-raced and out-scored the main man.
Hamilton’s annual salary is a reason he would be reluctant to walk away. He is signed up for this year and the next. But what a bind he is in.
He desperately wants an eighth world title to eclipse Michael Schumacher’s seven. But he is getting older and his facility to drive brilliantly has dimmed — if almost imperceptibly.
Should he carry on hoping for an eighth title? Or is time running out? If he were to go, would he look like a chicken? He dare not contemplate the question.Legacy
Another reminder of his real bind. Trapped in a contract, the walls of age closing in, he is driving a bad car that may not give him the tools to conquer the world again. When to go?
As Hamilton’s 2016 conqueror Nico Rosberg told me: ‘I am enjoying retirement, but I think Lewis will find it hard.’
Hamilton’s annual £40million salary could see him become reluctant to the idea of retirement
That is why I think Sir Jackie overestimates how comfortable life after F1 will be for Hamilton — it will be hard and lonely.
Yes, Lewis has other interests, but they are fripperies to keep him sane while he goes about the only real professional stimulus of his life: racing.
A DOG OF A CAR
This year’s Mercedes is awful compared to the Red Bulls and Ferraris. It bounces and is shaking up his back (apparently).
This pushes him into a corner. How long can Lewis genuinely keep up morale in inferior machinery while the sands of time run down (the bind again)?
What hope of a revival next year? Some, of course: what a brilliant team of engineers Mercedes possess, but their rivals also continue to develop apace. To stick, or retire?
Mercedes’ fall-off will give Hamilton something to think about in regards to retirement