When I asked the late John Surtees which team posed the biggest challenge to his title ambitions after his move to Maranello in 1963, he replied “Ferrari, of course.”

A few years later, I had the opportunity to ask Nigel Mansell the same question; he was less forthright, yet pointed towards the well documented fractures that appeared once Alain Prost arrived as his teammate.

The fact is, Ferrari is probably the world’s greatest, most influential, yet divisive Formula 1 team, rolled into one. And now, with a new nameplate fixed to the door of its Team Principal’s office, the scene is set for what could either be the start of a new and great renaissance, or sadly, yet another period of inertia. There’s little point in trying to second guess if Fred Vasseur, the man charged with finding the spark to fire Ferrari’s focus is the right man for one of the most difficult jobs of all, but I do know that he and Charles Leclerc are going to need more than determination, hard cash and raw talent to overcome the supremacy of Red Bull and Mercedes, and remove the ingrained stains of intransigence from behind the factory walls.

The role of a Formula 1 Team Principal has changed enormously in recent times: Once the realm of heroes, mavericks and die-hards, where driven ambition and late night invention were blended with snake oil solutions to conjure brilliance: Nowadays, you only have to look at the likes of Christian Horner and Toto Wolff to realise that they’ve morphed into sharp-suited CEO’s and figureheads; as skilled in manoeuvring their organisation to the top of the sport’s political game as they are in building and managing internal relationships, whilst seamlessly deflecting attention away from those whose actions so often deliver the next day’s headlines.

The public face of Ferrari’s new il capo suggests that he will be at ease at its helm, but with a frenzied media and Tifosi seeking to scrutinize and theorize every action, I think that right now, it’s not so much the drivers that need a distractive force at their fore but rather, Vasseur and the team he assembles. It’s not the first time he’s been in this position. Previously, he was brought in to revive fortunes at the newly rebranded (Enstone) Renault squad in 2016, but soon found that progress was blocked by a lack of past investment (by its former owners), and silent vapidity from those across the water. As such, despite a successful tenure at Sauber, he comes well prepared for what might lie in store, however, the culture of instant news and demand for fresh content can easily become both a drain and strain on a team’s human resources (as was so evidently displayed last year when multiple Red Bull seniors were forced to address issues and slurs, instead of enjoying the focus of a championship winning season and organising for the challenges ahead): This is just one of the reasons why I think that Lewis Hamilton is the man that Ferrari most needs at Vasseur’s side.

It’s not that I don’t rate Carlos Sainz jr; he’s clearly amongst the best young drivers in the world. But right now, Ferrari needs both experience and a number one: When the engineering and sporting teams are finally ready to sustain a title challenge, this should be Leclerc, because when he and Ferrari are firing on all cylinders, Leclerc will be the man to paint the grandstands red instead of orange. However, right now, what is most needed is a driver and champion of Hamilton’s calibre. A potent force who can not only give Vasseur, Leclerc, et al the breathing space needed to build momentum, but also has the ability to ignite untapped passions and potential within the Scuderia and its stakeholders, taking greatness to the next level, then possibly even beyond.

Hamilton is not only one of the finest racing drivers we’ve ever seen, he’s also one of its strongest characters. Hugely intelligent, immensely resourceful, and self-shielding from bullshit. He knows that where he treads, others will follow, and when he speaks, a world beyond motor racing listens. He’s not only battled his way to the top, he’s kept himself there, despite a never-ending barrage of abuse, accusations and derision, proving himself to be as commanding off the track as he is on it. Plus he and Vasseur have history; good history. Vasseur’s ASM squad took Hamilton to the 2005 Formula 3 Euro Series title, and then via the newly structured ART Grand Prix, straight to the GP2 crown. So, if Ferrari is truly serious about returning to the pinnacle of Formula 1, and recapturing its status as the world’s leading brand, then I need to suggest that its executive officers should facilitate whatever is needed to bring the seven-time champion to Italy with the utmost of haste.

Of course, Hamilton is not only an exemplary professional, he’s a true team player too. He bleeds Mercedes and is fiercely loyal to Wolff and everyone at Brackley, and still seeks further success for all. Nevertheless, given the chance to end his career by leading Ferrari for two years, I think that he’d see that the opportunities and outcomes, both in terms of legacy and social fulfilment, might far outweigh the burden of any guilt or regret. His six titles from ten seasons with Mercedes will always remain a testament to his impact on the squad, but it also most likely means that nobody should or will surely deny him the right to end what is undoubtedly one of the world’s most brilliant sporting careers his way.

Everyone at Maranello is aware of the story of the British Lions. If I were Fred Vasseur, I’d pick up the phone and invite Lewis Hamilton to join the pride.