Lewis Hamilton’s transfer to Ferrari continues to resonate and, in addition to amazement and joy, also raises many question marks. Journalists, (ex-)drivers and former world champions react en masse to the groundbreaking news. The last in that list: Jacques Villeneuve, who sheds light on the switch and also immediately puts forward Hamilton’s replacement at Mercedes.
Hamilton will enter his twelfth and final season at Mercedes in 2024. The seven-time world champion signed a two-year contract extension with the Silver Arrows in September, but will move to Ferrari after the upcoming championship. Villeneuve looks strange about it. ‘I am surprised. We have never seen this before, but we will certainly enjoy it. It’s hard to imagine: the greatest team of all time, with the most successful driver of all time. In a positive sense it is a big task for Ferrari, but at the same time also a bold step for Hamilton,” the Canadian former world champion told Gazzetta dello Sport.
Many wonder why exactly Hamilton chooses Ferrari. Villeneuve also has an answer to that. ‘My feeling says that something is missing at Mercedes. I don’t think Lewis believes in his own engineers anymore. He no longer believes in Toto Wolff and so he would do well to leave for Ferrari. It will be fantastic if he wins there, especially now that they have not won in Maranello for a long time,” concluded the Canadian, who also warned Hamilton. ‘Ferrari is a different world. It’s not easy to survive there. Now we will see how difficult it is on a psychological level. Ferrari uses their drivers. Just look at Fernando Alonso, even he is burned out. The only one for whom that did not happen is Michael Schumacher.’
What will ’24 (and ’25) bring?
Villeneuve also looked ahead to next season, which he said has just become a lot more interesting. ‘I am curious about how Mercedes will arrange everything between Hamilton and George Russell, but also how things will go between Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, now that both have nothing left to lose. Sainz will not take the team into account and will only focus on his own results. He doesn’t care about Ferrari’s. He must do everything he can to secure his contract for 2025 and to do that he must try to beat Leclerc,” Villeneuve concluded his advice for Sainz.
Mercedes now has another season to look for Hamilton’s replacement, although those are big shoes to fill. That is why Villeneuve puts forward an ex-world champion. ‘Alonso. That would be fantastic. Also because Mercedes cannot take another young driver like Russell.’ And while the German racing team starts working on the replacement for the seven-time world champion, a battle will unfold between Leclerc and Hamilton at Ferrari. ‘That has happened before in Maranello, but that match will be fun. They treat Leclerc like a champion, even though he has not yet shown that. When we see the Lewis of before, he will be formidable. After all, he has nothing to lose.’