Hamilton "fell asleep" in early part of 2017 - Villeneuve

Former F1 champion Jacques Villeneuve believes Lewis Hamilton "fell asleep" in the early part of the 2017 season and woke up when he realised just how strong the challenge from Sebastian Vettel was.

Hamilton "fell asleep" in early part of 2017 - Villeneuve

The Canadian, who won his sole title 20 years ago, says that Hamilton relaxed too much when Valtteri Bottas arrived as replacement for his previous title rival Nico Rosberg.

Rosberg beat Hamilton to the title last year before retiring from the sport.

"Lewis is really, really good," said Villeneuve. "He's only ever been in the best team with the best car, or close to it, like every great champion, which is fine.

"If he can be the whole season like he's been since the summer break, great, but he hasn't done a full season like that. He wasn't there.

"I think he fell asleep with Bottas, and when he realised that Bottas wasn't the one he had to fight, it was actually Vettel, that's when he woke up.

"He spent years with Nico, and it was always tough with Nico. Then when Bottas arrived he was laughing – 'Phew, finally I'll have an easy championship.'

"After a while he realised, 'Crap, Ferrari is there and Vettel is there.' And Vettel is not one to give up."

Villeneuve fought his Williams teammate Damon Hill in 1996, and then beat Ferrari's Michael Schumacher in 1997.

He says he preferred having an external rival.

"It's always better, because you don't need to be political internally, you don't need to share your resources with your teammate, and to be open about your set-up with someone that you're actually fighting for the championship. It's a lot more exciting when it's someone from another team."

The Canadian believes that 2017 was a positive season for the sport.

"It's always good when Ferrari is in the mix, and it's always good when it's a battle.

"On that aspect it's been a good year to have faster cars, and it's been a good year because we've been used to terrible years! So right now we're saying, 'Wow this was an amazing year.'"

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