Lewis Hamilton saga rumbles on as F1 drivers ‘always break contract rules’

Jacques Villeneuve has weighed in on Lewis Hamilton’s alleged approach to Red Bull by insisting that drivers speaking to other teams while under contract is nothing new. A media storm took hold during the build-up to last month’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix when Christian Horner said that discussions with Hamilton’s camp took place earlier this year.

Horner claimed that a member of Hamilton’s team had reached out to enquire about a move to Red Bull before the 38-year-old signed a new deal with Mercedes. Hamilton was quick to dismiss the claims, though, saying that Horner was the one who reached out to him to propose an end-of-season meeting.

It remains unclear if Hamilton actually did instruct one of his team members to open talks with Red Bull, but Villeneuve believes that his denial was par for the course for a driver who does not want his private matters brought into the public sphere.

“It gets a lot of print,” Villeneuve told PlanetF1 when quizzed on the topic. “As a driver, you’re not allowed to talk to other teams while you’re under contract and all that, but talks always happen.

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“Obviously, you cross people in the paddock or, sometimes, you’ll use someone who doesn’t work for you, but will still do the talk so you’re protected. But, if the noise comes out, you have to negate it. Then who’s there to check?”

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff was left angered by Horner’s claims, which reignited hostilities between the two rival bosses ahead of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The pair have rarely seen eye-to-eye over the years but Villeneuve is adamant that their rivalry has brought the best out of both parties during their time in F1.

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“That’s the only way you can progress,” he added. “Without the rivalry, you go backwards. In the past, Mercedes were winning easily and it is costly today because it took them way too long to react to last year’s car problem.

“Why? Because they spent so many years where it didn’t matter if the car was perfect or not, they had all the horsepower behind them. That’s why [Wolff is] right, you need that rivalry. That’s why Red Bull is still at the top, because Max is fighting still as if it was for the championship. If he had given up four races ago, they would be slower next year.”

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