At an event celebrating the upcoming ninth season of his show Britain's Got Talent on Thursday, the 55-year-old TV personality spoke to the U.K. outlet Sugarscape and was asked during the interview what he thought about 1D's future and the pop star's solo career prospects.
"He's a fantastic singer. Um, look, he's got to get his head together a little bit," Cowell said. "He needs some time on his own, as he said, to be a normal 22-year-old, which he's gonna have."
Malik has not responded to Cowell's comments.
The fan-favorite former American Idol judge, known for his acerbic on-screen remarks, helped form the boy band on another one of his shows, The X Factor. He also heads Syco Music, the record label that signed the group after they placed third during the series' seventh season in 2010.
Malik had announced in mid-March that he would take a hiatus from the group's On the Road Again tour, citing stress. The following week, the band, now made up of Niall Horan, Harry Styles, Louis Tomlinson and Liam Payne, announced Malik had left the group. Cowell had said in a statement after the singer's departure that he was "truly sorry to see him leave."
"I am leaving because I want to be a normal 22-year-old who is able to relax and have some private time out of the spotlight," Malik had said in an official statement, released just after the band's announcement about his exit.
The remaining One Direction members recently gave their first interview as a foursome, also speaking to The Sun, and posed for their first official photos as a foursome. Payne said they were "gutted" that Malik "chose to leave" and felt determined to continue their work. Styles added that the group was excited about working on their fifth album.
They've also continued their tour, whose official videos now omit Malik. The group is on a scheduled hiatus from the concert series and will resume touring in June.
"We've always hoped that One Direction would stay together for a long time and my hunch is it still will," Cowell told Sugarscape. "They're just too good for everything to stop now."