Amid renewed suggestions that Lewis Hamilton could move to Ferrari to restart his quest for a record-breaking eighth Formula 1 title, Johnny Herbert has said that the 38-year-old faces a race against time.
Having suffered the first winless campaign of his illustrious career last year, Hamilton had hoped to return to World Championship contention in 2023 but had to wait until last weekend’s Australian Grand Prix to secure his first podium finish of the season.
With Hamilton claiming after last month’s season opener in Bahrain that Mercedes technical team had ignored his guidance on the development path of the W14 car, it has been suggested that he may be forced to look elsewhere for more success having joined the Brackley-based outfit from McLaren in 2013.
Christian Horner’s insistence that Red Bull would have no interest in Hamilton’s services appears to leave Ferrari as the only potential option for Hamilton, whose current Mercedes contract is set to expire at the end of this season.
Moving to Ferrari – without a Drivers’ crown since 2007 – would see Hamilton follow in the footsteps of Michael Schumacher, the only other driver to win seven F1 titles, who won five consecutive World Championships in red between 2000 and 2004.
With Schumacher’s success achieved after he surrounded himself with a core group of trusted allies – with the likes of Ross Brawn and Rory Byrne following the German from Benetton to Maranello – Herbert fears Hamilton’s age would prevent him from repeating the feat and influencing a change of culture.
On the subject of Hamilton’s future, he told London’s Evening Standard: “I suppose it’s down to what happens at Mercedes.
“Can they turn it around? If that doesn’t work and Lewis still has the fire in his belly and thinks this is not the place for him where does he go?
“Would he go to Ferrari?
“Does he want to go there as he feels that’s where he gets a Championship?
“Would he feel he could take his energy and people from Mercedes there like Michael Schumacher did and actually change and steer it in a positive way?
“The problem with that is time.”
With the young drivers of today, including the reigning two-time World Champion Max Verstappen and McLaren’s Lando Norris, brought up on a staple diet of sim racing, Herbert believes drivers of Hamilton’s generation are being put at an immediate disadvantage.
He added: “The biggest difference now is that the majority of the young generation of great drivers on the grid have something that Lewis has never been comfortable with and want to put all their energies in, which is the sim stuff.
“It adds a sixth sense.”