Fernando Alonso says that Lewis Hamilton’s struggles are not surprising given that the car is just as imperative as the driver when it comes to success in Formula 1.
In previous years, Hamilton has been a main contender for the championship. This year, however, it has been a season to forget, as the joint record holder for most World Championship titles sits sixth in the drivers’ standings, well behind rival Max Verstappen and leader Charles Leclerc.
Part of Hamilton’s struggles are due to his new car, a design that Mercedes have struggled to perfect.
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The team's design was seen as ingenious during pre-season testing, but there have been no competitive lap times to show for it, with the car being around a second-per-lap slower than Red Bull and Ferrari.
"This is the nature of the sport," said Alonso, Hamilton’s former team-mate at McLaren. "Sometimes you have a better car, sometimes you have not such a good car and you still need to fight and make some progress
"This year we see that the driver is very important in F1 but not crucial.
"Lewis is driving as good as he has been the last eight years. He was dominating the sport and breaking all the records and 100-and-something pole positions. And now he is doing a mega lap - as he said in Australia or somewhere like that - and he is one second behind. So, yeah - welcome. This is F1.
"It is not going to be a fair sport in terms of numbers. This is a team sport more than anything and we tend to forget this, especially when we have success. We are so happy for what we are achieving that even if we try to share with the team, all the headlines are for the driver.”
Alonso has first-hand experience in what Hamilton is dealing with, having secured a second World Championship in 2006, but then failing to replicate that success.
"It happened to me when I won the two championships [in 2005 and 2006 with Renault]. I was beating Michael Schumacher. This was a big topic, but my car was more reliable at that time and had very good performance, and you cannot praise enough that package because the headlines will still be the driver. And with Lewis, it's the same.
"To have more than 100 pole positions in F1 is something unthinkable. You need to have the best car and package for many, many years.
"We were doing magic laps sometimes and we were P15, and how do you explain that to people? It will be impossible.
"He deserves everything he's achieved in the past but this year is a good reminder that in all those records and numbers there is a big part on what you have in your hands as a package in the car."
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