Damon Hill believes Lewis Hamilton has been "unlucky" in his battle with younger Mercedes teammate George Russell so far this season.
The seven-time Formula 1 World Champion is already 21 points down on Russell after four rounds of the new campaign.
Russell has delivered consistent results behind the wheel of a troublesome W13, placing no lower than fifth and finding himself on the podium once.
Meanwhile, Hamilton, amongst strong results in Bahrain and Melbourne, finished 10th in Jeddah and 13th in Imola.
Hill believes Hamilton has been running experimental set-ups
But there is more to Mercedes' results than meets the eye, says Hill, with the former Williams driver adamant that Hamilton has been running experimental set-ups to help the team learn more about their underperforming car.
"Russell has done an absolutely brilliant job and is looking strong, but I think Lewis has been a little unlucky," said 1996 World Champion Hill, speaking to F1 Nation.
"I think he's been delving around and has been happy to play the guy who tries the experimental set-up for Mercedes, because he's got more experience with them.
"Perhaps he's gone the wrong way [with the experiments] and sometimes that has made him look worse off than he really is against George.
"But George is definitely doing a sterling job and I think that's a very firm foundation for him going forward."
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Hill: Hamilton has not been humiliated by Russell
Russell's fine performances have landed him plenty of praise from across the paddock, with Nico Rosberg adding that former teammate Hamilton will "hate" to be the driver trailing.
But Hill believes the pressure, for now, remains on Russell: "He's not humiliated Lewis in any way, I don't think, I don't see it like that. I think, as I said, that Lewis is maybe a little bit downhearted, and George is very, very keen to establish himself, and he has to.
"Let's be honest, with the way this game is played, if you come into a team and you've been brought in, and you don't show your credentials pretty damn quick, then people start going, 'You're no good'. They don't waste any time before they start putting the dampers on someone.
"He's done a good job, but whether he can keep that up all season if Lewis finds what he needs from the car, we'll see."
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