1996 Formula 1 world champion Damon Hill believes the Mercedes team must give star driver Lewis Hamilton the freedom he wants or risks losing his services to a rival.
Hamilton is one of F1’s most visible figures, enjoying a jet-set, celebrity life away from the track as well as being a dominant force on it.
With three world titles to his name, Hamilton is one of the top drivers in F1 and is set to lead Mercedes’ charge for a fourth-straight championship double in 2017.
However, tensions have flared between Hamilton and Mercedes in the past, most notably in last year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix when he ignored team orders in a last-ditch effort to win the world championship.
Speaking to The Guardian, Hill said that Mercedes must be willing to put up with Hamilton’s emotional nature, or he may look elsewhere for a drive in F1.
“Lewis is an emotional beast and there might be a situation where he just goes: ‘I’ve had enough and I don’t want to do it’,” Hill said.
“That’s true for every driver but some don’t have the luxury he has, as he might be in demand somewhere else.”
“He is in a strong position. Mercedes have to recognize they either want Lewis Hamilton, the asset that he is to them and allowing him the space to do his work, or they don’t.
“If it’s not going well for Lewis, then he does have a tendency to make his feelings known.”
Hill compared a hypothetical Hamilton exit from Mercedes to his departure from McLaren at the end of 2012, which came as a result of strained relations with team boss Ron Dennis.
“If they overplay what Toto was saying about managing the drivers after what happened in Abu Dhabi, there is the chance he might go again,” Hill said.
“Like we saw at McLaren with Ron Dennis and his controlling way and Lewis saying: ‘I don’t want this. I’m out.’ That’s the fine line.”