Former F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone believes Lewis Hamilton should call it a day on his career in F1 if Mercedes leaves the sport at the end of 2020.
While Mercedes has given no indication that it could pull out of F1 after next season, the prospect of the manufacturer’s departure from Grand Prix racing isn’t being dismissed.
Paradigm shifts in the automotive industry imply that F1 could become less relevant to Mercedes, but its overwhelming success in the sport – with six consecutive constructor and driver titles achieved in the last six years – also entails that its mission is complete.
Furthermore, rumors of Toto Wolff leaving the helm of the Silver Arrows outfit to take the reins of F1 from current CEO Chase Carey are also gaining momentum.
For Ecclestone, if Hamilton wins a seventh title next year – a feat that would put him level with Michael Schumacher in the history books – and Mercedes leaves the sport, the Briton should drive off into the sunset rather than seek a final challenge with Ferrari.
‘There has been change at the top and the new people are not so enthusiastic about Formula One as the old people used to be.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if Mercedes stopped,” Ecclestone said at Interlagos, quoted by the Daily Mail.
“They might think we have won seven world championships — which they will have done by the end of next year — so why stay?
“If I were Lewis I’d think, ‘I’ve won another title,’ and I’d stop. If Charles Leclerc stays at Ferrari, I’d put money on him to win against Lewis. He’s not necessarily better but he is established in the team.
“Ferrari is a strange place to work. Lewis doesn’t speak Italian. They might gang up on him — or fall in love with him — but I don’t think he would do as good a job for himself or the sport as he is doing with Mercedes.”
Hamilton’s current contract with Mercedes runs until the end of next year. But regardless of Mercedes’ future, Ecclestone isn’t sure Ferrari would up the ante to acquire the Briton’s services, suggesting the Scuderia would perhaps prefer Max Verstappen whose deal with Red Bull also expires at the end of next year.
“If Ferrari had a choice of Lewis or Max Verstappen I think they would go for Max, for the same reason they like Charles,” contends the 89-year-old.
“With Sebastian Vettel or Lewis they will only get a couple of years but with the younger two they might get 10 years. I’m not sure Max isn’t the best guy at the moment, including Lewis.”