Hamilton's Ferrari move was always on the cards

Lewis Hamilton could not resist the allure of the only team to have competed in every season of the championship since 1950

Reuters
Published : 2 Feb 2024, 04:30 AM
Updated : 2 Feb 2024, 04:30 AM

Lewis Hamilton's multi-year deal to race for Ferrari from 2025 means the seven-times world champion is likely to see out his Formula One career in red, the most successful driver in the history of the sport racing for the most decorated team.

If the surprise news shook the sport on Thursday, coming only five months after the 39-year-old Briton signed a two-year extension with Mercedes, there was also logic to the switch.

Hamilton has long had a fascination with Ferrari, even if Mercedes have backed him from boyhood, and speculation about a potential dream-come-true move to Maranello has punctuated his career.

He has owned the Italian sportscars and, over the years, acknowledged the allure of the most historic and glamorous of marques.

"It's definitely going to be crazy to think that I never drove for Ferrari," he said in 2021. "Because for everyone that's a dream position to be in."

Mercedes have won only one race in the past two years, after eight successive constructors' titles, whereas Ferrari were the only team to beat Red Bull last year.

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff recognised the attraction in 2019 when he spoke of conversations with his driver, who now has a record 103 wins, about a possible move.

"You have to simply acknowledge that probably it’s in every driver’s head to drive at Ferrari one day," the Austrian told reporters then.

"It’s the most iconic, historic Formula One brand out there and I totally respect if a driver has the desire to drive at Ferrari."

Until now, it had been felt that the bond with Mercedes was unbreakable, but Hamilton could not resist the allure of the only team to have competed in every season of the championship since 1950.

Ralf Schumacher, whose brother Michael won five of his seven titles in a golden era of Ferrari from 2000-2004, saw the appeal as the icing on the cake of a stellar career.

"I think Ferrari is one of the places to be in the history of Formula One," he told Sky Sports television.

"Especially for a driver like Lewis that achieved almost everything and was very unlucky not to be eight-time world champion, to be honest.

"I think for him it is just the dot on the i to make it perfect."

Damon Hill, the 1996 world champion, suspected Hamilton would have stayed at Mercedes if he thought there was a real chance of winning a record eighth title there.

"I think he's got to the point where he's probably heard the music coming out of Mercedes maybe a few too many seasons and started to think 'well, I need to invigorate my final years in Formula One, what better way to do it than to drive for Ferrari'?"

"At least I've got a chance. If it goes wrong, at least I've tried."

Former racer and Sky TV commentator Martin Brundle said Hamilton's move was just what was needed to energise a championship in need of compelling storylines in an era of Red Bull dominance.

"He can win races with Ferrari. Can he win another championship? Tall order," Brundle added.