Jacques Villeneuve said Ferrari “could have been the Mercedes of today” had they not let talented personnel leave the team over the last few years.
The likes of the highly-regarded Aldo Costa and James Allison were former Ferrari employees but both made to switch to rivals Mercedes, while the Scuderia have also been criticised for limiting themselves in trying to build an all-Italian racing team.
Ferrari are firmly in the midfield pack and, heading into round 10 at the Sochi Autodrom, find themselves 40 points McLaren who are P3 in the World Constructors’ Championship behind runaway leaders Mercedes and second placed Red Bull.
And Villeneuve thinks that has happened due to Ferrari effectively shooting themselves in the foot.
“Ferrari could have been the Mercedes of today, but they let go of so many talented engineers,” Villeneuve is quoted as having told Sky Italia.
“Most of all because they were not Italian. And they all ended up there, on the other side.
“The team is facing extremely difficult times and it will take a lot for them to rise again.
“Maybe it will take at least two years. The most important thing is to get the best people on the team, regardless of their costs.
“The problem is not the fact that they are not winning but that they are so far behind technically.”
Even if Ferrari do get their house in order, Villeneuve thinks Mercedes will be “almost impossible” for anyone, never mind Ferrari, to catch the Silver Arrows in the years to come.
He added: “As long as F1 remains a hybrid formula, it will be almost impossible for competitors to get close to Mercedes. Not only do they have the best car, they also have the best driver in Lewis Hamilton.
“Also the  changes concern the chassis and aerodynamics, not the engine, so Mercedes will be able to carry over the advantage they already have.”