Lewis Hamilton could retire BEFORE end of season amid Mercedes struggles, claims F1 legend Jacques Villeneuve

LEWIS HAMILTON could QUIT before the end of the season after his horror start to the F1 campaign.

That's the view of former world champion Jacques Villeneuve.

Mercedes driver Hamilton finished in THIRTEENTH place in the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix on Sunday.

His poor showing has left him 58 points behind Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc who currently tops the Drivers' Standings.

The huge gulf between the pair has caused Hamilton to rule out the chance of winning a record eighth title this season.

And former Williams driver Jacques Villeneuve reckons Hamilton may call it quits before the campaign concludes.


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Villeneuve questioned Hamilton's hunger and desire to continue racing.

The 1997 F1 World Champion said in his F1 column: "Will Hamilton still be there in two, three years? Will he even reach the end of this season?

“You can’t see into someone’s head. You can be down and depressed or you can be unable to deal with no longer winning.

“Then maybe it’s time to decide life is better without racing. We’ve been surprised in the past – it’s happened that champions have sometimes just had enough.”

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The 51-year-old's view is shared by Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko who told Hamilton to call it a day after witnessing Max Verstappen LAP the Brit in Imola.

Villeneuve also believes that Hamilton's presence is hampering Mercedes' team-mate George Russell's progress.

Mercedes have ruled the racing roost for years but their hold over the sport was broken by Red Bull's Verstappen who clinched his first world title in controversial circumstances inAbu Dhabi last season.

Toto Wolff's team haven't fared any better in this campaign due to engineering woes and Villeneuve claims their favoritism towards Hamilton over Russell is also having a debilitating effect.

Wolff issued Hamilton a grovelling apology for sending the Brit out in an "undrivable car" on the weekend, which is treatment Villeneuve doubts Russell would receive in the same situation.

And the Canadian feels that Mercedes are going to have to make a choice whether to keep hold of "mega-star" Hamilton – or choose to nurture Russell's talents.

Villeneuve added: "At Mercedes, they now in any event need to learn how to lose.

"For years, they drove everyone into the ground. If someone got closer, they just opened the throttle.

“This year, they don’t have that advantage anymore. George Russell is doing a good job in the role of underdog. He learned this at Williams, while Hamilton has always had something to fight for.

“A few columns ago, I was already wondering how they will handle this within the team. At Imola, we already saw Toto Wolff has difficulty controlling himself.

"His radio message after the race spoke volumes. That wasn’t only aimed at Hamilton but the whole world. A bad result for Russell doesn’t generate criticism but for Hamilton it does.

“This is the risk of having such a megastar in your team. Hamilton wasn’t in the right rhythm from the off this weekend. He also didn’t look aggressive enough, as if he couldn’t fight.

"That he ended up getting lapped can happen. That’s the sum total of all the factors, plus the bad car.

“He won’t keep having such terrible weekends and he will beat Russell. But it won’t be easy being the head of the Mercedes team right now.

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“Do you choose your megastar, your poster boy, the record-breaking champion with the international image who costs you a mega salary? Or do you develop the car for the promising talent?

"A big star like this is great if you win, it gets you a lot of exposure. But if he doesn’t win, the backlash is so much bigger. A champion doesn’t have the right to not be competitive.”

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