/ 11 February 2024

A red-letter day for Hamilton

F1 Grand Prix Of Abu Dhabi Previews
New teammate: Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz pose for the Ferrari team photo at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, in the United Arab Emirates, in November. Photo: Clive Rose/Getty Images

The seven-time world champion, and record holder for the most career wins, Lewis Hamilton recently confirmed his decision to leave Mercedes-AMG Formula One as he looks to continue his racing career with the iconic Scuderia outfit. 

After the announcement, the Formula One world was left pondering the implications, not only for Hamilton but also for Ferrari drivers Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jr.

Following one of the briefest, but most intense, driver-specific speculation windows in recent F1 history, it was confirmed that the British driver would be making the move to Ferrari when the 2025 season rolls around. 

While this was undoubtedly a surprise, it wasn’t entirely unexpected, since Merc hasn’t been able to deliver a consistently competitive car to take the title fight to reigning constructor champion Red Bull. 

Then again, no team has been able to deliver the goods as reliably as Red Bull since the regulation changes at the start of the 2022 season.

Whether Hamilton’s decision to switch teams was purely a strategic move to help build a team that, as it stands, is relatively inexperienced from a driver standpoint, or a bid to secure that elusive eighth title, is a debate for another day.

By joining Ferrari, he will add his name to the list of legendary drivers who have worn the scarlet overalls. 

Conversely, he’ll also be joining a list of greats who have sought a second chance at championship glory with the sport’s most storied team, notably Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel, who have, at best, failed to crack the Ferrari code during their tenures.

What of the Mercedes-AMG F1 team’s future? With Hamilton’s imminent departure, they will be hard pressed to find a suitable replacement for their top driver. 

The team had been a dominant force in the hybrid era, thanks to Hamilton’s dominance, until Max Verstappen’s divisive title win at the end of the 2021 season, however, his departure will leave a void. 

The question now is who will get the nod to fill the empty spot in the garage next to George Russell. A soon-to-be former Ferrari driver or perhaps a member of Mercedes’s junior programme?

Hamilton’s move to Ferrari will have far-reaching consequences for the F1 world and not just for the protagonists of what will undoubtedly make for excellent viewing on F1’s soap opera Drive to Survive. 

Formula 1 Testing In Bahrain Day One
New heights?: Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes at the Bahrain International Circuit last February. Photo: Mark Thompson/Getty Images

It will certainly add a layer of excitement and intrigue to the sport that, at present, struggles to capture the imagination on several fronts, especially with a single-team-stronghold narrative.

Then there’s the question of the different power balances at play. 

Ferrari, which hasn’t won a championship since 2007, will benefit from Hamilton’s immense skill and expertise as it seeks to reclaim the glory days. But at what cost? 

As it stands, Leclerc’s future looks to be secure at Ferrari beyond this year, while Sainz Jr has been linked to Audi’s debut, come 2026. Considering his father’s 2024 Dakar win with Audi, it’s not all that far-fetched.

Returning to the issue of power dynamics, the question remains of how Hamilton will fit into the existing team, led by principal Frédéric Vasseur, because a balanced driver lineup, where no preference is given to anyone is, to be honest, a diplomatic pipe dream.

The build-up to this season was uneventful, with the only newsworthy announcement Guenther Steiner’s exit from Team Haas. 

But, if powerplays like Hamilton’s are any indication of what the season will be like behind the scenes, we’re in for a treat on the track, as drivers look to impress the big man at Merc.