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Hamilton must be ‘driver’ not ‘rapper’ for 2016 title

The outcome of the 2016 world championship will depend in large part on whether Lewis Hamilton is sufficiently focused.

That is the view of Jacques Villeneuve, the 1997 world champion and now an outspoken pundit, who thinks this year’s battle could once again be a two-horse race between the silver-clad Mercedes drivers.

“To understand whether he (Hamilton) or Nico will be most competitive, first we will have to see if Hamilton’s head is more with the rappers than on the track, as happened in the final races of last season,” he said.

“We will have to see if he feels like a driver again,” Villeneuve, speaking at the launch of Italian broadcaster Sky’s F1 coverage for 2016, added.

Quoted by La Repubblica newspaper, Villeneuve was also critical of Fernando Alonso, arguing that the Spaniard priced himself out of the market for a more competitive seat in F1.

In moving to the struggling McLaren-Honda project, 44-year-old Villeneuve argued, “He made a risky choice, but we can hardly say ‘Oh poor thing’ given that he earns 30 million a year.

“Of course, few drivers would say no to that kind of money, but Alonso paid the price for his arrogance when he was angry with Ferrari.

“Although he says he made the right choice, it is impossible that he really thinks that.  Vettel has already done better than him because he brought peace to Ferrari,” he insisted.

As for whether Sebastian Vettel can really challenge his silver-clad rivals in 2016, Villeneuve is not sure.

“In my opinion,” the former Williams driver said, “the Silver Arrows were never really pushed to the maximum last year.  Definitely Ferrari will have made progress, but the first thing will be to see what level Mercedes is at.”

And he thinks Vettel’s teammate Kimi Raikkonen can also not be written off.

“He may be the surprise of the season,” said French Canadian Villeneuve.  “Last year he received a lot of criticism but he is a more serious and stronger driver than before.”

Villeneuve does not, however, rate Red Bull’s chances, particularly because of Daniel Ricciardo.

“He suffers a lot because of the pressure,” he charged.  “As soon as he became the first driver, he disappeared.”