1996 Formula 1 World Champion Damon Hill believes that Lewis Hamilton could opt to walk away from the sport if Mercedes continue to struggle.
Mercedes endured a difficult 2022 campaign that saw it claim just one grand prix victory following years of success competing at the front of the field.
Although its current W14 car doesn’t appear to have the issues that held the team back at the start of last year, George Russell admits that fighting for victory at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix would be “a bit of a stretch”.
2022 marked Hamilton’s first win-less season of his career, but asserted that Mercedes’ struggles have motivated him to extend his stay in F1.
However, Hill believes that he could go the other way if Mercedes continues to compete off the front-running pace.
“Lewis will respond to opportunity,” Hill told Standard Sport. “If the opportunity diminishes rather than increases, then it will be more difficult for him to deliver those stellar performances.
“He’s someone who is inspired by an opportunity to win. An opportunity to come fifth is not really sufficient motivation for Lewis.
“Given his incredible record, he may well want to ask, ‘Why do I need to keep doing this?’ if there’s no sign of the summit.”
Hamilton currently sits as the most successful driver in F1 history, boasting more wins, podiums and pole positions than any other driver.
He is tied on seven titles with Michael Schumacher, and missed out on a record-breaking eighth championship in 2021 following a season-long battle against Max Verstappen.
Hill states that the 38-year-old’s biggest motivation is making the record his own.
“That eighth world title was in his grasp and then it was denied him,” he said.
“That’s the only reason he came back and carried on: the hope of getting that eighth title. I think that is his only motivation. I don’t think he just wants to race.
“At 37 [sic], he’s still got some more seasons, but he’s not got 10 years ahead of him. It’s going to be one or two.
“But when you’ve had that many years in Formula 1, to pull your socks up and fight for fourth place, it gets a little bit less appealing.”