Lewis Hamilton is better off losing with Ferrari than Mercedes at this stage of his F1 career, with “something wrong” inside Mercedes at the moment.
That is the view of Jacques Villeneuve, the 1997 World Champion, who has hailed Hamilton’s 2025 switch to Ferrari as a boost for the sport.
Hamilton announced on Thursday that he will leave Mercedes at the end of the 2024 season, bringing an end to his glorious spell with the Silver Arrows during which he won six of his seven World Championships.
Lewis Hamilton ‘no longer believes’ in Mercedes
Speaking to media including PlanetF1.com’s Thomas Maher on Friday, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff admitted he was surprised by the timing of Hamilton’s exit after signing a new two-year contract as recently as last August.
Villeneuve believes Hamilton simply lost faith in Mercedes after two winless seasons and has timed his transfer to Ferrari to perfection.
Having dominated with Michael Schumacher at the turn of the century, the Scuderia have failed to win the Drivers’ Championship since Hamilton’s first season in F1 in 2007, but slowly and surely, they are closing in as the main title rivals to Red Bull.
He told Italian publication La Gazzetta dello Sport: “Inside Mercedes, there is something wrong. Lewis no longer believes in the engineers, no longer believes in Toto.
“Whereas the team, after all the space and freedom it has given him, did not expect such a farewell. It was Mercedes that created the image of Hamilton. They thought he would stay for life even as an ambassador.
“The feeling is that Mercedes is missing something and I don’t think it will recover in two years.
“So Lewis is right to go to Ferrari, where if he wins it will be fantastic, it will be the best possible, more so at a time in history when the team hasn’t won for so long.
“It would have been different, for example, to go there straight after Schumacher.
“And if he doesn’t win, in any case it will be an image boost. Better not to win with Ferrari than not to win with Mercedes.
“If we rediscover the Lewis of the great days it will be formidable, also because he has nothing to lose. And finishing in style with Ferrari is the best thing in the world.”
With the likes of Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel failing to deliver World Championship success to Maranello, Villeneuve believes Hamilton will face an interesting psychological challenge in terms of handling the expectation and pressure at Ferrari.
He said: “Ferrari is another world in which it is not easy to survive. Now we will see how strong he is also psychologically.
“Ferrari uses its drivers. Even someone like Alonso got burnt out. The only one who hasn’t is Schumacher.”
Hamilton will be 40 by the time he arrives at Ferrari, but Villeneuve has dismissed the suggestion that his move will turn out to be a disappointment like Schumacher’s return with Mercedes at the same age in 2010.
And he is convinced that Hamilton remains driven by the idea of avenging the 2021 season, when he missed out on a record-breaking eighth World Championship in highly controversial circumstances.
“No,” Villeneuve responded when asked if Hamilton at Ferrari could turn out to be a repeat of Schumacher’s Mercedes career.
“There, Michael came back after stopping, because he was bored. Lewis is fit and still hungry. He wants a rematch of the 2021 World Championship, which from his point of view was stolen from him.”
Villeneuve has been left excited by the news, claiming Hamilton’s switch to Ferrari will be positive for both parties and generate huge interest in F1.
“That it is good news for all of us,” he said. “It is unexpected, indeed, and exciting. It gets people talking.
“You can’t imagine anything more: the greatest team of all time with the most successful driver.
“For Ferrari it is an incredible image operation, in a positive sense. And on Hamilton’s part, it’s a great move.”