1996 Formula One world champion Damon Hill believes Mercedes must give Lewis Hamilton the freedom he requires this season or risk potentially losing him to a rival team.
Since switching to Mercedes in 2013, Hamilton has enjoyed his most successful spell in his F1 career, racking up a total of 32 race victories and two drivers' world championships across the last four seasons. His time at the German manufacturer has not been totally free of controversy, particularly when fighting teammate Nico Rosberg for three successive titles between 2014 and 2016.
Tension between the two rivals reached a crescendo at last year's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, in which Hamilton disobeyed team orders in one final, and unsuccessful, attempt to win the championship by backing Rosberg into the chasing pack. Speaking to The Guardian, Hill warned that Mercedes should avoid trying to impose too much control over Hamilton.
"Lewis is an emotional beast and there might be a situation where he just goes: 'I've had enough and I don't want to do it,'" Hill said. "That's true for every driver but some don't have the luxury he has, as he might be in demand somewhere else.
"He is in a strong position. Mercedes have to recognise they either want Lewis Hamilton, the asset that he is to them and allowing him the space to do his work, or they don't. If it's not going well for Lewis, then he does have a tendency to make his feelings known."
Hill also defended Hamilton's controversial celebrity lifestyle away from the track and believes the three-time world champion is more than capable of balancing his personal life and career, if Mercedes continues to give him the freedom he wants.
"He does whatever is necessary to keep his life balance. Nico stopped because of the pressure of competing and, if Lewis goes away and lets off steam and does whatever he has to do to keep himself fresh and then comes back, that's a good thing too.
"As a talented driver you must create the conditions where you can do your job without it consuming you. Nico had his guts turned inside out in that championship last year and you can only do that so many seasons on the trot.
"Lewis knows how to manage his resources. You can play too much or work too hard and you do have to keep your energy in reserve. He knows when he goes to Melbourne he will be on top of the job and that he won't have worn himself out."