Red Bull’s public ridicule of Sir Lewis Hamilton’s woes at Mercedes, according to former Formula One driver John Watson, might be damaging to the team’s image.
Last weekend, Hamilton had a bad weekend at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, finishing outside the top 10 for the first time since 2013 in a “undriveable” Mercedes chassis.
In contrast, teammate George Russell rose to P4, giving Mercedes comfort in the knowledge that they can alleviate the “porpoising” as well as a slew of other issues afflicting them and still get strong performances with the car.
After Max Verstappen beat Hamilton to the world title in 2021 and also won last weekend’s race in Imola, the seven-time champion ruled himself out of the title fight. Red Bull adviser Dr Helmut Marko said that the Briton “should have stopped” last year.
Watson agrees that Red Bull’s mockery is an important aspect of the team’s psychological struggle with the Silver Arrows, but suggests that they tone it down a bit.
“To use a cricket analogy, they’re sledging him. All they’re doing is just adding more discomfort to Mercedes and primarily Lewis… It’s part of the game,” Watson said.
“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.”
After their intense title fight last season, Verstappen’s father, Jos, revealed that he “did enjoy” witnessing the reigning world champion lap Hamilton, and it was a significant moment that epitomised Red Bull’s mastery of the new technological standards, and Mercedes’ shocking failure to adapt.
Watson, who won five races with Penske and McLaren between 1976 and 1985, said Verstappen was ecstatic after putting a lap on Hamilton.
“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…”
Hamilton’s resentment at the contentious manner in which he was denied his eighth title last year will be exacerbated by Mercedes’ lack of performance, according to the 75-year-old.
“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.”
Red Bull overtook Mercedes in the Constructors’ Standings in Imola, with the Milton Keynes team claiming their first one-two since the 2016 Malaysian Grand Prix.