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‘The stars aligned’ – Hamilton reveals the key factors behind his shock Ferrari switch

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BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - FEBRUARY 23: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes attends the Drivers

Lewis Hamilton has given a further insight into his decision to sign with Ferrari for 2025, with the Briton shedding light on what changed following the signing of his contract with Mercedes last summer. The seven-time world champion also expanded on the influence of his relationship with Scuderia boss Fred Vasseur, and how he wants to end his final chapter with the Silver Arrows on a high.

The F1 world was taken by surprise when news of Hamilton’s switch to Ferrari emerged at the beginning of February, particularly in light of the seven-time world champion having previously suggested that he would end his career in the sport with Mercedes. Hamilton had signed a new deal with his current team in the summer of 2023, which would keep him at the squad through to the end of 2025.

READ MORE: Bullish Hamilton doubles down on Russell’s positive comments after first run in Mercedes W15

However, activating a release option in his contract allowed Hamilton to put pen to paper with Ferrari, who he will join next season after his final campaign with Mercedes in 2024.

During pre-season testing in Bahrain, Hamilton sounded a positive note about his initial experiences with Mercedes’ new car, the W15. Outside of the car, though, the 39-year-old faced no shortage of questions about his impending move to the red team.

When asked about what had changed between signing for Mercedes last summer and opting to join Ferrari, Hamilton explained: “In the summer we signed, and obviously I, at that time, saw my future with Mercedes. But an opportunity came up in the new year and I decided to take it.

BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - FEBRUARY 23: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG

Hamilton has been behind the wheel of the Mercedes W15 during pre-season testing in Bahrain

“I feel like… it was obviously the hardest decision that I think I’ve ever had to make. Obviously I’ve been with Mercedes for, I think it’s like 26 years they’ve supported me, and we’ve had an absolutely incredible journey together. We’ve created history within the sport, and it’s something I take a lot of pride in and I’m very proud of what we’ve achieved.

“But I think ultimately I’m writing my story and I felt like it was time to start a new chapter.”

READ MORE: 'I think it will look cool' – Verstappen offers his take on Hamilton's blockbuster Ferrari switch

When news broke of the move, Hamilton wrote on social media about how the switch to Ferrari offered a chance to fulfil a “childhood dream”, something that he elaborated on further in Bahrain.

“Of course, I think for every driver growing up, watching the history, watching Michael Schumacher in his prime, I think probably all of us sit in our garage and see the screen pop up, and you see the driver in the red cockpit and you wonder what it would be like to be surrounded by the red,” Hamilton said.

“You go to the Italian Grand Prix and you see the sea of red Ferrari fans and you can only stand in awe of that. It’s a team that’s not had huge success recently, since 2007, and I saw it as a huge challenge. Without a doubt, even as a kid, I used to play [on games] as Michael in that car, so it definitely is a dream and I’m really, really excited about it.”

SHANGHAI, CHINA - OCTOBER 01:  Michael Schumacher of Germany and Ferrari celebrates his victory

Hamilton admired what Schumacher achieved during his years of success with Ferrari

'I think the stars aligned'

In joining Ferrari, Hamilton will again link up with Fred Vasseur. The pair previously worked together during Hamilton’s climb up the ranks in junior formulae and have remained in contact ever since. Hamilton acknowledges that the relationship was an important factor in enabling the move to happen.

“I’ve got a great relationship with Fred,” he explained. “Obviously I raced with him in Formula 3, and we had amazing success in Formula 3 and also in GP2, and that’s really where the foundation of our relationship started. We just always remained in touch. I thought that he was going to be an amazing team manager at some stage and progress to Formula 1, but at the time he wasn’t interested in that.

READ MORE: Vasseur admits call to Sainz over Hamilton's Ferrari move was ‘one of the most difficult’ of his life

“It was really cool to see him step into the Alfa [Romeo] team and then when he got the job at Ferrari I was just so happy for him, and I think just the stars aligned. I think it really wouldn’t have happened without him, so I’m really grateful and really excited about the work that he’s doing there.”

Hamilton was also asked about learning to speak Italian in preparation for joining the team for 2025. Reflecting on his language skills, the Briton admitted: “In all these years I’ve not managed to learn any other languages, but of course I will definitely try. I do remember when I was karting in Italy and I was able to pick up a few lines, and so hopefully that will come back to me pretty quickly.”

Fred Vasseur on 'good winter' and keeping positive momentum into the 2024 season

The language aspect is just one area of change awaiting Hamilton in his switch to the squad. Another factor within the team that he hopes to work on developing is their work in diversity, with the world champion proud of the steps forwards that Mercedes have taken in this area in recent times.

“Firstly I’m immensely proud of the work that we’ve done within Mercedes. Since 2020 we’ve made some real great strides in improving the diversity within the team,” Hamilton said. “For example, within HR we’ve got a diverse HR group, and that will continue beyond me, which [is] something I’m really proud of, and as I said I’m proud of the team for pushing so far ahead.

READ MORE: Hamilton 'mega-motivated' as he prepares for final season with Mercedes

“I think we are ahead of every other team in that respect, and there still is a huge amount of work within the whole sport, which I’m speaking [about] to Stefano [Domenicali, CEO of Formula 1] constantly and looking to work more with Formula 1. And of course, you look at Ferrari, they have a lot of work to do, so I’ve already made that a priority in speaking with John [Elkann, Executive Chairman of Ferrari] and they’re super excited to get on and work on it also.”

While this is all lying ahead for Hamilton, the Mercedes driver was keen to stress in Bahrain that his focus for now remains on the 2024 campaign, with his goal being to end his time with the Silver Arrows on the best note possible.

“This chapter’s still not finished,” Hamilton stated. “I’m still 100 per cent focused on delivering for this team this year and trying to finish on a high – that’s a big, big goal for me and the team, and I have absolute faith in everything and everyone in the team, and what we’ve done so far I think is great, so I really hope that we are somehow able to close the gap to the Red Bulls.”

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