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Lewis Hamilton's Shock Ferrari Switch. What happens next?

Jim K 02/02/2024
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Lewis Hamilton

Image: Mercedes AMG F1

Lewis Hamilton's shock move to Ferrari for the 2025 Formula One season represents the sports story of the year. The news that Hamilton, a titan of F1's modern era, is departing Mercedes to the Scuderia has sent shockwaves far beyond the paddock and F1 fans. This announcement is the sport's equivalent of Michael Jordan leaving the Bulls for the Knicks or Christiano Ronaldo switching from Manchester United to Manchester City worldwide — a monumental news story, no matter your sporting preferences.

Hamilton, the man synonymous with Mercedes' recent dominance, looked set to be a single-engine driver, having only raced with Mercedes-Benz power since his 2007 F1 arrival. The German manufacturer has delivered every pole position, podium, victory, and championship of Hamilton's across six McLaren seasons and 12 at the works team. Yet the partnership will only last for 24 more races.

The decision, revealed in a meticulously orchestrated sequence of announcements over a bizarre day in F1 social media, marks the end of an era, but the continuation of a story that might see Hamilton become an even greater star. His journey with Mercedes is nothing short of legendary. Together, they've redefined dominance, beating even Michael Schumacher's incredible run in the 00s, amassing six of Hamilton's seven world championships, 82 race victories, 78 pole positions, and an astonishing 148 podium finishes.

Lewis Hamilton

Image: Mercedes AMG F1

However, the tides of time spare no one, and even the most successful alliances must end. Despite its storied legacy with Hamilton, Mercedes has faced challenges adapting to the ground-effect era since 2022. Two winless seasons — Hamilton's first in his career — have clearly shaken the seven-time champion's confidence, and whatever he's seen for the upcoming 2024 season wasn't enough to sway him to stay.

Enter Ferrari, a team whose history is interwoven with Formula One since the first championship race in 1950. The allure of the Scuderia is undeniable. Ferrari is a dream drive for any racer, no matter their allegiance. As Sebastian Vettel once said, "Everybody is a Ferrari fan. Even if they're not, they're a Ferrari fan." For Hamilton, the long-time thorn in Ferrari's side, it represents a fresh challenge, a new chapter, and perhaps, a chance to cement his legacy in a way few others have, should he take a title wearing red.

By joining forces with Charles Leclerc, Ferrari's home-grown prodigy that they've backed from junior categories, the Scuderia has set the stage for a compelling narrative of old vs young, potential vs accomplishments, and master vs apprentice. The two share respect, with Hamilton profusely expressing his compliments to Leclerc's talents in his rookie 2018 season. The two racing in the same team is mouthwatering, especially should Ferrari create a car capable of challenging for a championship.

Lewis Hamilton

Image: Mercedes AMG F1

Hamilton's debut year in 2007 saw him and Fernando Alonso rip McLaren apart. The Mercedes garage split in two, too, with Nico Rosberg partnering Hamilton in their title-fighting years from 2014 to 2016, straining the pair's friendship from childhood. Two of the fastest drivers in the sport sharing a top team rarely ends well, and how Ferrari's management handles their iconic 2025 line-up is a subplot I can't wait to see.

That management is worthy of mentioning. Ferrari's Team Principal, Frederic Vasseur, is the one to credit for luring Hamilton over. He managed the ART team on the exciting British talent's way to Formula 1, and the two retained a strong friendship that has them chatting in the paddock at every grand prix. While it's no secret Ferrari has enquired about recruiting Hamilton before, the announcement's timing, a little over a year since Vasseur's appointment, is no coincidence.

Bombshell news like this inevitably reverberates around far more than just those involved. For Carlos Sainz, who must now find a new drive, this is a stark reminder of the ruthless nature of F1. Mercedes also has an open seat, with any driver that steps into having fewer accolades than F1's record holder for wins, poles, and titles. After a non-existent driver market last year, Hamilton and Ferrari have set up a silly season for the ages with this early signing.

Lewis Hamilton

Image: Mercedes AMG F1

As we gear up for the 2024 season, Hamilton's final with Mercedes, every race, every lap, and every moment will have a sense of historical significance. Any lap in the lead, qualifying P1, or race victory might be the last with the three-pointed star on Hamilton's chest. And should none of those come to fruition, questions about Hamilton's desire to join Maranello will simmer under the surface all year.

Can Hamilton repeat what Michael Schumacher, Niki Lauda, Alberto Ascari, and Juan Manuel Fangio have managed and become a Ferrari World Champion? Or will he join Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel, and Alain Prost as world champion drivers who failed to take the Prancing Horse to the title? The 2024 season hasn't even begun, but I already cannot wait for 2025 to see F1's greatest driver partner with the sport's greatest team.


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