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Villeneuve: F1 a bunch of sharks, Hamilton owes Mercedes nothing

lewis hamilton with f1 world champion trophy posing

Typical straight-shooting Jacques Villeneuve not to mince his words when talking about Lewis Hamilton’s sensational move to Ferrari for 2025

The 1997 Formula 1 World Champion is adamant that the ‘marriage’ of two massive global brands – Ferrari and Hamilton – has significance beyond the sport. Villeneuve adds that the seven-time World Champion owes Mercedes nothing for ditching them, Villeneuve echoing a common claim that “F1 is a bunch of sharks” aka Piranhas.

Earlier this month, Ferrari instigated the F1 ‘coup of the century’ succeeding in prying Hamilton from his two-decade-long comfort zone with Mercedes, to alter his legacy with a final F1 fling with the sport’s greatest teams. This was evident by the jump in Ferrari shares since it was announced.

This did not only impact the F1 fishbowl, it went global and viral as headlines still scream newsand will continue to do until he dons the Red of Ferrari and beyond of course.

Discussing the Hamilton to Ferrari news with the Genting Casino team, Villeneuve reckoned: “It’s amazing. The impact we have already seen with the share value in Ferrari bouncing up in 24 hours. That shows the effect. Ferrari’s value went up by $7-billion on the New York Stock Exchange with the Hamilton announcement.

“When you look at it like that, it was super cheap for Ferrari to get Lewis. Lewis already has made money for Ferrari even after they have paid him. So that’s great. Lewis is really keen on his eighth championship and he could see he wouldn’t get it with Mercedes.

“The chances of getting an eighth are remote anyway even though he can still drive to that level. There’s no issues there.

“But as you have seen with Alonso, you still need to be in the right place at the right time. Lewis made an amazing move from McLaren to Mercedes, everyone thought he was crazy and look what happened. Six championships in that relationship,” Villeneuve pointed out.

Apart from the seven F1 world titles, he has a record 103 GP victories already plus 104 Pole Position starts before the 2024 season ahead. His last with Mercedes who do not seem to have a F1 title-winning car ahead of the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.

Can Lewis win F1 world title number eight with Ferrari?

FILE PHOTO: Formula One F1 - Turkish Grand Prix - Istanbul Park, Istanbul, Turkey - November 15, 2020 Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton celebrates on the podium with team principle Toto Wolff after winning the race and the world championship Pool via REUTERS/Ozan Kose

Villeneuve is a believer: “Yes of course he can,  as could Alonso. He is not racing just because he gets a salary. He still puts it all out there. He still has the same talent. It just depends on how hungry he is.

“Maybe being at Ferrari will make him feel like he really has to prove something. Ferrari is a different beast. There is a different type of pressure, the attention. It is as if the team is called ‘Italy.’ It is not just a racing team but a way of life here.

“So, you can be amazing and awful in the space of two seconds. They can turn on you so quickly. That is how it should be when you are operating at that level. For Lewis now this is the next stage in building his image even if he doesn’t get his eighth championship.

“This is the biggest move he could have made. It is great for Ferrari’s image as well,” added Villeneuve, whose father Gilles remains one of the favourite ‘sons’ of Tifosi and the Scuderia.

At 40 years of age when he dons a Ferrari race suit next year, Hamilton, the best qualifier in the F1 history according to StatsF1, with his 104 P1 starts, partners with new teammate, highly-rated Maranello-grown Charles Leclerc, acknowledged the best qualifier of the Young Guns, Max Verstappen included.

The age gap is 14 years between Lewis and Charles, setting the stage for an intriguing (to say the least) working environment at Ferrari, in a sport where the first order of business for a driver is to beat his teammate.

Villeneuve: It looks like there are two camps in Ferrari now

leclerc hamilton ferrari 2024

The relative harmony of Carlos Sainz as his teammate lasts this season. When Hamilton arrives, a whole new dynamic enters the ballpark for Leclerc to contend with, according to Villeneuve: “It was curious how quickly they resigned Leclerc, how quickly they pushed that through.

“It will give a kick to Leclerc as well. He’s been promoted as a champion but he hasn’t shown it yet. Now we will see his mettle and what he is really made of.”

“It looks like there are two camps in Ferrari now. One that has been protecting Leclerc and said we have to re-sign him before Lewis arrives. Leclerc can’t be happy having a seven-time world champion, the biggest name in F1 in racing history next to him, when he himself has been promoted as the next ‘champion.’

“If he starts beating Lewis, his profile will go up big time. Lewis has nothing to lose. He has seven titles and his move was a big boost to his image. There is nothing else he could have done.

“We also might go back to seeing the amazing Lewis. You could see the Lewis of the last two years has been so upset about not having won the championship. It was dragging him down. It was tiring, a weight. Sometimes you just need fresh water,” ventured Villeneuve.

Hamilton has thus far won the F1 title with two different teams, one with McLaren and six Mercedes, would winning his eighth with Ferrari make him the indesputable F1 GOAT?

Villeneuve: Winning with Ferrari would put Lewis at the very top

lewis hamilton michael schumacher f1 canadian grand prix gp f1

Villeneuve thinks so: “If he manages to win the championship with Ferrari then yes, definitely. After so many years after having had a tough moment when he won his seventh and narrowly lost out on his eighth.

“Changing to a team [Ferrari] that has been in chaos for a number of years, where other former champions didn’t manage to win it [Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel] then if Lewis did, that would put him at the very top.”

The move to Ferrari shocked F1 to its core, this site crowned it the F1 “News of the Century” as Hamilton put aside the organisation that backed him from his karting days. Powered him to 21 victories with McLaren, then another 82 wins (so far) since he joined the German team in 2013. An incredible legacy they built together.

But that beautiful legacy ended on 1 February when the Hamilton to Ferrari news triggered a whole, unexpected, new reality for F1. One that has been lauded and applauded by all who know what is good for F1, the GRANDPRIX247 Editorial Team included.

However spare a thought for Mercedes, who in essence had their star asset defect to their rivals, on and off the F1 tracks. The PR message is loud and clear to us consumers: Yes Sir Lewis loved and adored his Mercedes after he won so much with it, but in the end he cannot resist what every great racing driver wants, namely to end his F1 career driving a Ferrari. Priceless.

How does Hamilton’s unexpected departure impact Mercedes?

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Should Mercedes feel aggrieved at being ditched by Hamilton, Villeneuve said: “He has spent his career making sure that what he did was the best for him. Not giving any quarter. Not being friendly or nice to anyone else.

“It is a business. F1 is a bunch of sharks. He doesn’t owe Mercedes anything. Mercedes gave him a lot but they gave them a lot in return. I guess that’s why the clause was there in the first place. I’m not saying he has done anything bad though!”

As for the impact on Mercedes when Hamilton departs and then on Ferrari when he arrives, Villeneuve predicts: “The Lewis leaving bombshell will not help Mercedes. A lot of people inside will be upset and sometimes people just won’t work as hard.

“Ferrari will be exciting to see. I am also curious to see what happens with Jock Clear at Ferrari. He was Lewis’s engineer at Mercedes and that worked quite well. Will he stay as Leclerc’s engineer, or will he go back to Lewis? That would be amazing for both. I can see good energy at Ferrari. Chaotic yes, but a lot of people will want to really push.”

As for the odd man out of the whole equation, Carlos Sainz has to find a new team as a result of Hamilton replacing him, Villeneuve added: “It would be interesting to see what happens with Sainz. He won’t give the Ferrari team any favours now. He wasn’t treated very well.”