Four reasons why Lewis Hamilton to Ferrari makes so much sense

Oliver Harden
Lewis Hamilton celebrates in Mercedes colours with a prominent Ferrari badge alongside him.

Lewis Hamilton: Will leave Mercedes for Ferrari at the end of 2024.

Is it sinking in yet? Keep repeating it until it does: Lewis Hamilton really will leave Mercedes to join Ferrari for the F1 2025 season.

The move came as a shock when it was announced at the beginning of February, but after two years of consistent Mercedes underachievement it perhaps should not come as a complete surprise.

Here’s why Hamilton’s move to Maranello makes so much sense…

He has nothing to lose anymore

Could it be that Hamilton’s only shot of winning a record eighth World Championship came and went in the controversy of Abu Dhabi 2021?

He would never admit it, of course, but with Red Bull and Max Verstappen so dominant under F1’s current rules the prospect of Hamilton adding to his collection of titles is now vanishingly slim no matter what he tries.

Hamilton is all too aware from his own experience with Mercedes – winners of eight consecutive Drivers’ and Constructors’ titles from the start of F1’s V6 hybrid era in 2014 – that when a team and driver get into such a groove they can be impossible to stop.

Just as F1 pretty much belonged to Lewis in the era of Mercedes dominance, this is Max’s world now.

The rest? They all just live in it, all making up the numbers to some degree.

So what difference does it really make if Hamilton drives a Mercedes or a Ferrari? Neither is a Red Bull.

At this stage, he has nothing to lose.

Life at Mercedes had become unsustainable after Abu Dhabi 2021

There has been no shortage of images over the last two years of Hamilton looking downbeat, reflective, melancholy even.

An event like Abu Dhabi 2021 can do that to someone, leaving Hamilton a diminished, damaged, slightly haunted figure. Every single move he has made in Mercedes colours since that night has had the shadow of Abu Dhabi hanging over it.

It wasn’t just the circumstances of the race – being denied an eighth title in those circumstances – but everything that followed too: Mercedes’ failure to give him a car to instantly strike back; having to contend with a fast and feisty new team-mate in George Russell when he was perfectly content with Valtteri Bottas by his side as his trusty wingman.

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As time has passed, Abu Dhabi 2021 has come to represent the beginning of the end of Hamilton’s Mercedes career. Everything he had built at Brackley became distorted after that race.

Hamilton, to this credit, tried his best to remain positive in public, but as the team struggled to make significant progress with the car his frustrations became harder to contain.

See, for instance, his claim at the 2023 season opener in Bahrain that Mercedes had ignored his guidance over the design of the W14, making no effort to conceal the clear difference in opinion between team and driver in a way that was previously unthinkable.

As one winless season soon became two, a competitor of his nature could not carry on smiling through the pain.

Life at Mercedes post-2021 had become unsustainable. He had long been crying out for a change of scenery, a fresh start and a reason to keep racing.

A chance to retire on his own terms

Facing media including PlanetF1.com’s Thomas Maher on the morning after the big announcement, Toto Wolff seemed to shed more light on the reasons behind Hamilton’s departure.

“We couldn’t commit for a longer period” than the two-year contract extension Hamilton signed last August, Wolff admitted, with a short-term deal offering a “benefit for both sides.”

Hamilton has already seen the benefit from his side, backing out before the first season of his new deal even began – after all they achieved together too – in a ruthless act reminiscent of Daniel Ricciardo ditching Renault after one season of a so-called long-term project.

Yet what exactly was the benefit for Mercedes?

Creating the freedom to promote Andrea Kimi Antonelli within the next couple of years, perhaps?

It’s been a working theory since the news emerged that Hamilton was mindful of the team’s excitement about Antonelli – possibly Merc’s answer to Max: young, quick and bursting with potential – and was left unloved by Toto having half an eye on the future.

The history of F1 is littered with tales of great champions being shuffled off into retirement to make way for the next generation – you may recall Alpine’s attempt to do the same with Fernando Alonso in 2022 backfiring spectacularly – with Hamilton himself signed as the successor to a fading, 43-year-old Michael Schumacher in late 2012.

Switching to Ferrari should give Hamilton a better chance to bow out on his own terms.

Reuniting with Fred Vasseur

The closing scene of the beloved Ayrton Senna documentary sees the three-time World Champion asked to name the driver he most enjoyed racing against in his career.

Alain Prost, surely? No? Must be Nigel Mansell, then?

None of the above, he says, but Terry Fullerton, whom he came across as a youngster in karting.

Terry who? Exactly.

Senna’s surprise response got to the heart of a truth common among racing drivers, who achieve immense wealth and glory yet often find that the most satisfying part of their careers comes in those innocent early days long before the spirit of competition is corrupted by politics, power and money.

There is an element of Hamilton heading back to his own roots by reuniting with Fred Vasseur, now the team principal of Ferrari, who oversaw his stylish title-winning GP2 season with ART in 2006 – effectively Year Zero of Hamilton’s F1 career.

For all his admiration for the Ferrari brand and his long-held desire to race with the Prancing Horse on his chest, would he have been quite so willing to make the move now if Vasseur – someone he trusts implicitly – wasn’t in situ at Maranello?

Make no mistake: when Lewis and Fred are reunited at Ferrari in 2025, it’ll be just like the good ol’ days.

Except, of course, this time it will be on the biggest of all F1 stages.

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