Mika Hakkinen reckons Lewis Hamilton is in a "tough spot" to try to claim a record-breaking eighth Drivers' title, due to Mercedes falling away from the very front of the Formula 1 field.
The two-time F1 World Champion also believes the arrival of George Russell will only be adding to Hamilton's current stress levels, and that Hamilton is likely very annoyed by the current situation.
While Mercedes are currently second in the Constructors' Championship, the W13 is not yet at the level of Ferrari's F1-75 or Red Bull RB18.
With a tight budget cap restricting a team's ability to spend their way out of trouble, Mercedes face a tough challenge to claw back the gap to the front.
All of these ingredients mean an unhappy Hamilton, according to Hakkinen.
Russell putting Hamilton in a "tough spot"
Hakkinen thinks the arrival of Russell, the 2018 Formula 2 champion, has led to a very different feeling at Mercedes compared to the dynamic established by Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas.
"It's a tough spot for Lewis, it's obvious," Hakkinen said in a special video for Unibet.
"Russell didn't come there to be the number two or to lose. He's there to give his best and [is] working to become World Champion one day. He's not bowing down to a seven-time World Champion.
"The last race in Australia was a tough spot for Lewis, really tough. The team naturally wants the drivers to finish the race. They got the result – not the result they hope for, but still good points for the team.
"But I'm sure Lewis is still annoyed by the situation. It's hard to be beaten by George. I'm afraid this will be a really difficult season for Lewis."
Hakkinen pointed out that Mercedes' current travails won't be as disheartening for the new arrival as they would be for Hamilton.
"It's already difficult for Mercedes, but especially for Lewis," the Finn said.
"George comes from a team with little to no success – he had some good qualifying results but not in the races. All these achievements with Mercedes are new to him, everything feels super good.
"For Lewis, this is a disaster. And, with George being ahead, it's even worse."
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Hakkinen: Hamilton will consider leaving Mercedes
As a result of the current situation, Hakkinen said it's unlikely Mercedes are getting a particularly happy Hamilton in the current team debriefs.
"I wonder how Lewis behaves in the team meetings," Hakkinen pondered.
"I bet he's sulking – I can imagine it! Lots of complaining and whining."
With Mercedes unlikely to be able to turn things around in time to launch a World Championship bid, Hakkinen reckons Hamilton may already be considering departing the team when his contract expires at the end of 2023.
"This starts the natural thought process of drivers, 'Should I go somewhere else?'," Hakkinen said.
"It's a fact. He's been at Mercedes for years and won multiple championships.
"Now that things are not going well, he'll start thinking of switching teams."
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