Lewis Hamilton should have quit F1 at the end of last season and taken a ‘year out’, according to former British F1 driver Tiff Needell. The former Ensign star said taking a sabbatical would have allowed the seven-time champion to see how competitive Mercedes were under a new rules package.
Needell warned it was always possible one of the big teams would have a ‘design disaster’ and drop down the field. The Silver Arrows have dominated the sport since the start of the turbo-hybrid era in 2014.
However, this season saw a radical rules shake-up as new aero regulations came into effect in a bid to spice up the racing. The new rules were expected to launch in 2021 but were pushed back due to the coronavirus pandemic which allowed some teams extra time to work on their cars.
The big winners have been teams which abandoned their old cars to focus more on their new projects as early as possible such as Ferrari and Haas.
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Speaking on his ‘Lovecars on the Grid’ podcast, Needell explained: “I actually said with the new formula coming, if I was Lewis, I’d take a year out to see how the Mercedes goes and then come back a year later. There is always the chance that one of the big teams would have a design disaster.
“Lewis should have quit, which would have been a good impact on the race that happened at the end of last year… stayed out for a year and he would have been sitting pretty. He bravely came forward and boy he must be regretting doing another season with that awful car.”
Hamilton could only finish 13th in Imola after a poor qualifying saw both cars knocked out in Q2. The seven-time champion was then unable to work his way through the field after being stuck in a DRS train in the sprint race and Grand Prix.
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Team-mate George Russell had an excellent start and benefited from Charles Leclerc’s late spin to finish in P4. However, Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff described the car as ‘undriveable’ after the race.
The team has continued to struggle with its porpoising issues and has not got the power advantage it enjoyed in previous seasons.