Gerhard Berger believes Lewis Hamilton’s claims he’ll never leave Mercedes are hot air, and reckons another team could tempt him away.
The former Ferrari and McLaren racer is of the opinion that Lewis Hamilton could be tempted into joining Ferrari, or another team, if the conditions were right.
This is despite Lewis Hamilton’s claims that he believes he’ll be with Mercedes “until he dies”, having only ever won races with Mercedes power while racing with McLaren, before joining the factory team in 2013.
The 38-year-old, whose contract with Mercedes comes to an end at the conclusion of the 2023 season, addressed rumours he could choose to walk away from the team, or possibly retire entirely, given that Mercedes are no longer the outright pace-setters in Formula 1.
“For years we’ll be going around, up and down with stories of retirement and stopping,” Hamilton said last year.
“For me, I feel healthier than I’ve ever felt, as I focus a lot on that, I’m feeling fit. I love what I’m doing – and I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon but I’m very… my goal was always to be with Mercedes, y’know, I signed with them in 1997.
“I think I’ll always be with Mercedes ’til the day I die. And I feel like I can race for quite a bit longer. So, I’ll be potentially steering towards that.”
Hamilton’s commitment to Mercedes has continued into this season, with the seven-time World Champion not giving the slightest indication that he is looking to move elsewhere.
Gerhard Berger: Everyone wants to race for Ferrari
But Berger is unconvinced by Hamilton’s words, saying that he believes the British driver could be cajoled into a move away from the Mercedes fold by the challenge of trying to return the Scuderia back to the front of Formula 1.
“Every racing driver wants to drive for Ferrari at least once,” Berger told Austria’s Kronen Zeitung – the Austrian having raced for Ferrari between 1987 and ’89, before a return between 1993 and ’95.
With Ferrari challenging for the titles but unable to win one since 2008’s Constructors’ Championship trophy, Berger said the prospect of climbing uphill for the potential glory could be too much to ignore.
“Almost all the good ones have been there,” he said.
“Ayrton Senna just didn’t go to the Scuderia because he knew: ‘I can never win there’.
“It may be that Lewis thinks so too. But if he doesn’t get a competitive car at Mercedes, if he doesn’t see a place at Red Bull Racing, then he might think: ‘I don’t want to stop just yet, I want to try Ferrari again. Maybe I can fix it’.
“Although Lewis constantly emphasises that he would never leave his Mercedes family, that means nothing in Formula 1. No one reveals the cards there!”
Toto Wolff has no ‘Plan B’ if Lewis Hamilton retires
With Hamilton’s contract conclusion coming into view in the coming months, the possibility that Hamilton could choose to walk away from Mercedes isn’t one that team boss Toto Wolff is concerning himself with just yet.
As a result, Wolff said he hasn’t concocted a ‘Plan B’ if his superstar driver drops a bombshell on him before re-signing a contract for 2024 and beyond.
“I think it may sound naive, but I really struggle to think of a Plan B, if my Plan A is still the one that is my favourite,” Wolff said.
“I don’t want to engage in discussions with other drivers, because I’m happy with the ones that are in the team, that’s for sure. At the moment, there is no Plan B. It’s Lewis.
“I think that he would tell us early enough, I don’t think that Lewis would say: ‘I can’t do this anymore. I’m out of here tomorrow.'”