How Lewis Hamilton’s sensational move from Mercedes to Ferrari played out
Last spring, sources say Lewis Hamilton received a call. It was Ferrari chairman John Elkann. This wasn’t completely out of the blue. Ferrari had come calling before – and Hamilton knew Elkann well. They had become friends following several meetings.
During the call, it is believed Elkann made another play for F1’s most famous driver. They laid their cards on the table. The Ferrari board had reiterated that they wanted to see Hamilton in red, ideally for 2024, but if not at some point before the seven-time world champion hung up his helmet – and Elkann was making the pitch.
Hamilton and his team had pondered moves to Ferrari in the past but, each time, they had opted to stick with Mercedes. When this call came last spring, they mulled it over again – it was a no. It is believed nothing really progressed beyond some very informal, loose chats.
That summer, the 39-year-old went on to sign a new two-year deal (taking him until the end of 2025) with the Silver Arrows, the team he has been with since 2013 and won six of his seven world titles. However, as with many contracts, there were ways of extricating either side from the deal.
As summer turned to autumn, the picture of what Mercedes could deliver in 2024 became clearer to Hamilton. Meanwhile, Ferrari remained resolute with their ambition to prize the Briton away and they sensed that maybe, just maybe, they were breaking Hamilton’s resolve.
When winter came and Ferrari came calling again, Hamilton gave it the respect he always did and analysed the pros and cons. This time he was more interested – and the chats were more formal. They got serious quickly.
Ferrari laid out their short to medium-term plan to Hamilton. They believe they are on the right path with development. They believe 2026 – when new regulations are introduced – can be the turning point and set them in motion to end their title-less run. They believe their new 2026 power unit, which will run 100% sustainable fuel, can be the class-leader – and they have form in this area.
Hamilton absorbed the information and a decision was made. In his mind, now was the time to take that leap of faith and race for the team all F1 drivers ultimately want to drive for. He signed on the dotted line, with everything finalised early this week, and he subsequently informed Mercedes of his decision to leave on Wednesday. The dye had been cast.
Sources say Mercedes called a team briefing on Thursday at 1400 UK time to inform staff of the development: Hamilton is leaving at the end of the season and Mercedes are on the look-out for a new driver for 2025.