Ex-F1 driver John Watson has told Red Bull that taking digs at Lewis Hamilton is not a good look after Helmut Marko mocked the seven-time world champion.
Hamilton, 37, has endured a difficult start to the 2022 campaign, struggling to get to grips with the newly adapted Mercedes car and badly off the pace. Having arrived in Emilia Romagna on just 28 points from four three Grand Prix races, he was unable to arrest the slide after exiting in Q2.
He made no impact in the Saturday Sprint Race and started the Grand Prix 14th on the grid. He would eventually finish 13th on the Sunday, and his difficult weekend was compounded by being lapped by race winner Max Verstappen.
It's a far cry from the 2021 campaign, where Hamilton and the Red Bull man battled it out for the world title. Eventually, it was the Dutchman who prevailed, but only in controversial circumstances after a dubious safety car procedure at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Amid rumours that his poor form may prompt him to retire, the British driver took to Instagram this week to dispel that prospect. He posted a picture of himself in the team garage, saying: "Working on my masterpiece, I’ll be the one to decide when it’s finished."
However, after his nightmare in Imola, Red Bull advisor team advisor Marko didn't hesitate to stick the boot in on Sky Sports, suggesting Hamilton "should have stopped" after the last campaign. His comments were largely vilified by F1 fans on social media.
Now Watson, who won five Grand Prix races in an F1 career spanning more than a decade, has blasted Christian Horner's team for being "blatant" with their jibes: “To use a cricket analogy, they’re sledging him,” he told RacingNews365.com .
"All they’re doing is just adding more discomfort to Mercedes and primarily Lewis. It’s part of the game. 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."
Watson, 75, concluded that Red Bull could raise the issue of Hamilton's struggles in a more respectful manner: "You can make your point, but you don’t have to overegg it," he added.
Verstappen himself nonchalantly shrugged off what happened, although his dad Jos admitted he enjoyed seeing his son lap the Mercedes man. Hamilton said it emphasised the team struggles, telling reporters "This shows how wrong we’ve got it."
Indeed, after the race he received a radio apology from Toto Wolff, who described the W13 as "undriveable." Hamilton has already publicly written off his hopes of challenging for the championship, saying he can only hope for small progress between now and the end of the campaign.
He will go into the inaugural Miami Grand Prix a full 58 points of leader Charles Leclerc. However, the race in America has potentially been thrown into chaos after both race directors, Eduardo Freitas and Niels Wittich, tested positive for Covid-19.
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