James Vowles admitted he was surprised by the timing of Lewis Hamilton‘s move to Ferrari, but said he wasn’t shocked that the seven-time world champion couldn’t resist a move to Maranello.
Vowles joined Brackley all the way back in 2001 and was present for all of Hamilton‘s title wins with the Silver Arrows, enjoying a close relationship with the champion before leaving to become Williams team principal for 2023.
But while Hamilton‘s decision stunned most of the Formula 1 world, Vowles said Ferrari‘s pulling power is unmatched.
“Lewis, the timing came as a surprise to me,” Vowles told media including Total-Motorsport.com at Williams’ 2024 car launch. “His want and desire to be in a Ferrari at some point in his career, no.
“I think most world champions have either been there or have a desire to be there because it’s a force of nature and it’s still the most successful team in Formula One and that can’t be ignored.”
Hamilton also realises a dream that his idol Ayrton Senna never achieved. Senna is the most recent multi-time champion apart from Mika Hakkinen to have ended their career without joining the Scuderia, but he’d reportedly been offered a contract to sign for 1995 by Jean Todt shortly before the Brazilian’s death.
Vowles: Hamilton’s move could benefit everyone
Mercedes are yet to pick the driver that will replace Hamilton, with Williams‘ Alex Albon one of the favourites for the seat after Mercedes‘ last two new drivers have also come from Grove – George Russell and Valtteri Bottas.
Fernando Alonso is also in the mix alongside his compatriot Carlos Sainz – who Hamilton ousted from Ferrari – but there’s only a handful of drivers in the world who wouldn’t feel like a step down from statistically the greatest in F1 history.
However, Mercedes have their junior superstar Andrea Kimi Antonelli making his F2 debut in 2024, and Vowles predicted the team could come out stronger in the long run.
“It’s the hardest thing to do, for every human in the world to move from where you’re comfortable to where you’re not, challenges you and pushes you to the limit,” Vowles added. “And that’s Lewis all over. And so the fact he’s doing it, I actually think that it’s good for sport.
“It’ll be good for Lewis. It’s not good for Mercedes short term, but actually I think you’re going see they’ll absolutely fine on where they get to on drivers and they will come back stronger as a result. So ultimately, it’s a good thing all-round in time.”