Former Ferrari race engineer Rob Smedley predicts whether Hamilton can succeed where Alonso and Vettel didn’t
Rob Smedley has given his take on whether Lewis Hamilton can enjoy the level of success at Ferrari that eluded the team’s previous world champion drivers Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel.
It was confirmed on Thursday that Hamilton will leave Mercedes at the end of 2024 to join the Scuderia on a multi-year contract starting from 2025, with the Briton having activated a release option in his deal with the Silver Arrows.
The news caused a stir across the F1 world and many have reflected on the romance of driving for Ferrari, a team that a number of great names in the sport’s history have raced for.
However, the fairytale of switching to the Italian outfit has not always ended happily for some. Alonso failed to add to his two previous drivers’ titles when he raced for the squad from 2010 to 2014.
Vettel, meanwhile, arrived at Ferrari with four world championships under his belt from his winning years with Red Bull. Like Alonso, he put himself in contention for further title glory with the Scuderia on more than one occasion, but the dream never materialised. Vettel was ultimately replaced at the team in 2021 by Carlos Sainz.
Could the story pan out differently for Hamilton? Smedley – who previously worked for several years as a race engineer at Ferrari before leaving after the 2013 season – believes that the team’s recent form might bolster the chances.
“I think that he's such a consummate professional that he will lift every area of the team,” Smedley told the F1 Nation podcast. “I think the difference perhaps, from certainly when I was there and Fernando was there, is that they've shown their potential over the last few years.
“Even last year, they showed that they were one of the few teams that were actually genuinely able to take it to Red Bull on occasion, especially in qualifying. There are areas where they need to improve, if they're going to genuinely challenge for world championships.”
Smedley thinks that Hamilton’s arrival at Ferrari can act as a boost to the whole team, something that he argues could potentially result in much success.
“I think Lewis definitely can be a catalyst for crystallising the team around him or around him and Charles [Leclerc]," Smedley commented. "Sometimes a Formula 1 team just needs something to help them put in that extra one per cent and when you’re putting in 110 per cent, putting in that extra one or two per cent makes a massive difference.
“It's the same as what happened with Red Bull after their fallow period – once you start to win, it actually becomes difficult to stop. You've got to almost make specific interventions for it to stop, like breaking up the team, key drivers leaving, or stuff like that. That's how periods of domination stop.
“But you see, once it gets a sniff of winning and it's got instrumental people within that team – people like Lewis, who are just winning machines and are driven to win, weekend in, weekend out – if you’ve got those people leading your team, it becomes difficult to lose. I think that's what we may see with Ferrari.”