An inspired decision or risky move? Our writers give their take on Hamilton's shock Ferrari switch
The F1 world was left stunned on Thursday when news emerged that Lewis Hamilton will join Ferrari in 2025 on a multi-year contract, bringing his long relationship with Mercedes to an end after the 2024 season is complete. Is the bombshell move an inspired one, or could Hamilton come to regret making the switch? Our writers have been giving their take on the announcement...
Chris Medland, Special Contributor
Like everyone in the F1 world, this is a move that caught me completely by surprise. The way Hamilton had previously spoken about his future with Mercedes – even beyond racing in F1 – had just led me to believe it’s where he’d end his career. I’ll admit first whispers didn’t even have me taking it totally seriously at first…
But I think it’s a great move. He has nothing left to prove on the track, and yet an eighth title at Ferrari – the team where Michael Schumacher won five of his seven – feels like it would be an even greater ending to his career than another at Mercedes.
And if that championship never comes, it will still be a special time to see the most successful driver in F1 history racing for its most iconic team. It’s exciting to have a fresh dynamic like that.
The only concern I have is if Mercedes clearly outperforms Ferrari and the partnership with Hamilton doesn’t quite click, but I feel like Fred Vasseur gives it the best chance of being as harmonious as possible.
For Mercedes, a solid car this year will leave them with huge interest in the vacancy and their pick of available drivers. But another underwhelming one will start to create a real sense of decline, so it’s a crucial 12 months ahead.
Of course Carlos Sainz is now one of those available drivers and should be high on the list of options given his performances at Ferrari, where he’s turned around bad spells but also outperformed Charles Leclerc at times.
If Mercedes don’t go for him, someone’s going to get an extremely strong driver next year, and the fact he lost his seat to Hamilton certainly shouldn’t dent his reputation.
Mark Hughes, Special Contributor
I think this move illustrates just how brilliantly ruthless the F1 mentality can be and how that injects a volatility which is part of F1 DNA. In a way it's a 'Hollywood' move, the bringing together of the two highest-profile entities in F1 with all the commercial implications that carries.
But it's also an absolutely fascinating match-up from a competitive perspective: Lewis Hamilton will be 40 years old by the time he first races the Ferrari – and he will be going up against a 27-year-old Charles Leclerc, a driver often cited as arguably the fastest in the world over a single lap in a team which he has made his own.
That illustrates enormous confidence on Hamilton's part, but why would a seven-time world champion not have confidence? For Leclerc, he's surely going to be thinking throughout '24 of the challenge which Hamilton's arrival in '25 will represent.
They are both incredibly gifted, both hard-as-nails competitors beneath their soft exteriors. It's going to be fascinating.
David Tremayne, Hall of Fame F1 Journalist
I’m one of the last people to mention the words ‘career suicide’ to Lewis Hamilton when he thinks of changing teams, as he is all too happy to remind those of us who suggested a switch from McLaren to Mercedes for 2013 was, at the very least, perhaps unwise…
That, I feel, is still more easily understood than this shock decision to leave a team with whom he has won so much, to join one whose last world champion was crowned back in 2007
Is it just an itch that he feels the need to scratch, driving for Ferrari like so many past champions? I can understand that, as his career heads to its final phases, but if I wanted more titles I think I’d be inclined to back Toto Wolff and James Allison above others. Ferrari’s management and strategic thinking have not matched them recently, even if their cars have at times been reasonably well matched.
What puzzles me the most is not so much the desire as the timing. Why announce it now, before the season has even begun and the all-new W15 is yet to turn a wheel in anger? When nobody knows whether it’s the magic bullet Mercedes need?
Despite the best will in the world, the fact that he is to leave at season-end will inevitably have a deleterious effect on the morale of team mates he has so long urged to keep their noses to the grindstone, either to keep the team at the top or, in recent seasons, fighting back against the Red Bull steamroller. Their touchstone and hero, the man who has helped so much to keep their passion ignited…
If the W15 proves good enough to win him the record eighth title he thought he was headed for in Abu Dhabi back in 2021, why not keep driving its successor to try for an even more impressive ninth?
Or is the plan to do a season with Ferrari, to be able to say what his hero Ayrton Senna did not live long enough to say himself – that he drove for the storied Prancing Horse – and then quit before everything changes for 2026?
This is a massive statement of intent from Ferrari, who aren’t likely to want it to be just for one season, and somehow I don’t see Lewis resisting the lure of a new formula…
Is Charles’ “multi-year” deal, like Lewis’, only really one year with an option that would allow Mercedes to snatch him? Or, with Carlos Sainz likely to switch to Sauber for 2025 ahead of its metamorphosis into Audi for 2026, will the three-pointed star move in and pair Alex Albon with George Russell, who must be delighted that the departure of such a tough team mate will put him in the pound seats at Brackley from 2025?
What does this mean for the bromance between Toto Wolff and Fred Vasseur?
As stories go, it’s a humdinger that came out of the blue, most especially one suspects to Mercedes. But it has started the 2024 season with a huge bang and a lot of questions still awaiting answers – and guarantees that 2025 will be equally fascinating.
Regardless of how all this shakes out, F1 is the big winner.
James Hinchcliffe, IndyCar Race Winner and Analyst
Driver announcement news is rarely particularly shocking. Surprising, but not shocking. I’m sure many were surprised, for example, when Oscar Piastri announced that he wasn’t racing for Alpine and instead was headed to McLaren. Thursday’s announcement that Lewis Hamilton was leaving Mercedes at the end of 2024 bound for Ferrari, however, was truly shocking.
The questions that immediately come up are why Ferrari and why now? The answer to both is timing.
Ferrari has been the team that has challenged Red Bull on a more regular basis than any other for two seasons. That same period at Mercedes must have weakened Hamilton’s faith that the team could be the ones to give him a capable car. Plus, there is an emotional attachment to Ferrari that nearly every Grand Prix driver has. Assuming this is Hamilton’s last team in F1, bowing out of the sport as arguably the greatest ever, while wearing the red overalls of the storied Scuderia, is a poetic ending to an incredible career.
But Hamilton has shown that the strongest emotion he feels is the desire to win, which leads us to the ‘why now’? Something has clearly happened since his August announcement that he had re-signed with Mercedes for two years.
Teams are barred from doing any wind tunnel or CFD work on the 2026 regulations for another 11 months, so he wasn’t swayed by aero numbers. But the new engine regs are a substantial deviation from the current ones, and perhaps he knows something about Ferrari’s PU that made him convert. And with more races behind him than in front, it’s not like he could wait for 2026 to see if Ferrari was the clear leader, and then make the move. If he’s going to gamble it has to be now.
When realistically the goal must be a title in 2026, many are probably wondering why announce now, a month into his new two-year deal? There’s a chance that this came from Ferrari. It’s known that Carlos Sainz wanted his future sorted before the season started, and wouldn’t have accepted a single-year extension, so Ferrari’s hand may have been forced in this regard, knowing that rumors would start swirling if Sainz was only given 12 months. Luckily for Sainz his stint at Maranello has been strong enough he will have options aplenty for 2025.
Regardless of the where Hamilton is going, or the timing of the switch, you can be sure that the ‘why’ is simple; he wants title number eight. It might be a gamble, but his track record on rolling the dice with new teams is as impressive as his win tally.
Mike Seymour, Staff Writer
The biggest driver move of the 21st century? No doubt. The biggest driver move in F1 history? Quite possibly. Lewis Hamilton to Ferrari is a simply sensational story that’s got everyone talking about 2025 before the 2024 season has even started.
Hamilton had been pushed by the media about the prospect of a Ferrari switch for several years, openly admitting to being tempted by the famous brand’s charm but never – for one reason or another – taking that next step and agreeing to become one of their drivers. Until now.
It raises questions on so many levels. Will he get it right again with a follow-up to his masterstroke Mercedes move ahead of the turbo-hybrid era? Will it be the Silver Arrows or another team, rather than Ferrari, who manage to challenge Red Bull’s dominance going forward? How will he fare against the Scuderia’s long-time protégé, Charles Leclerc? And who will take Hamilton’s seat at the end of the year?
Those tantalising questions aside, what’s certain is that after 11 years at Brackley, Hamilton had been craving a new challenge. His move to Ferrari not only offers that, but along with it a chance to cement his F1 legacy and add another layer to his stunning record of success.
Indeed, only one other driver across some seven decades of F1 competition has won the world title with more than two teams. That person? The legendary Juan Manuel Fangio, who triumphed for Alfa Romeo, Maserati, Mercedes and Ferrari during the 1950s.
With the title he achieved at McLaren and the six he has bagged at Mercedes, Hamilton sits alongside a host of other F1 icons – from Jack Brabham to Niki Lauda and Emerson Fittipaldi to Michael Schumacher – as a driver to have won with two outfits, but this gives him a shot at making it three and standing out from that crowd.
After coming agonisingly close to a record-breaking eighth championship back in 2021, Hamilton admirably dusted himself down and has had his sights fixed on claiming that prize ever since. If he manages to achieve it with Ferrari, it would arguably be even more momentous.