Revealed: How Abu Dhabi ’21 played pivotal role in Lewis Hamilton Tifosi relationship

Jamie Woodhouse
Lewis Hamilton on the podium at Monza in 2019.

Lewis Hamilton has stood on top of the Monza podium five times in the past.

Leading Italian correspondent Roberto Chinchero has heard only “big respect” coming from the Tifosi towards Lewis Hamilton, who had “80 per cent” of the Ferrari fanbase behind him after Abu Dhabi 2021.

A dream move which looked destined to remain a fantasy, Hamilton ensured a very early and wild start to the latest Formula 1 ‘silly season’ with confirmation that he would swap Mercedes for Ferrari come 2025.

A Mercedes driver since 2013, the seven-time World Champion has found recent years tough going and is without a win since Saudi Arabia 2021, the prelude to one of the most controversial grands prix in Formula 1 history.

Lewis Hamilton had ’80 per cent’ of Tifosi behind him after Abu Dhabi ’21

The season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix followed Saudi Arabia and the scene was set for an epic title-deciding clash between Hamilton and Max Verstappen, the pair remarkably going into the event level on points.

For much of the race it seemed Hamilton was well on his way to a record-breaking eighth World title, but Verstappen ultimately took the win and title glory, with the actions of then race director Michael Masi directly impacting the race following a late Safety Car period.

In the years prior Hamilton has had many World title battles with Ferrari stars such as Felipe Massa and Sebastian Vettel, causing a fair amount of heartache for the Tifosi along the way, which raised some question marks over how warm the welcome would actually be for Hamilton once he arrives in Maranello.

However, Chinchero is not aware of any extensive ill-feeling towards Hamilton, with Abu Dhabi ’21 actually serving as proof of that.

“There was a lot of respect,” Chinchero told Sky Sports in regards to Hamilton’s relationship with the Tifosi during those years battling their title hopefuls.

“Of course, especially in Italy, it’s different when you are against Ferrari, of course you are kind of an enemy, but in the end there was a big respect, like what happened with Ayrton Senna. He never drove for Ferrari but I think Italy is probably the second place in the world after Brazil, where until now, there are a lot of people that respect the Senna story.

“In the end, when you dress in red, to the Tifosi you become a hero. But I never heard bad comments about Lewis, just a big respect for his story. He comes from zero, he built his story by himself.

“When you’ve won more than 100 grands prix, you’ve won seven World Championships… I remember, in Italy there was a big support to Lewis after Abu Dhabi 2021. I think probably 80 per cent of the Italians were supporting Lewis in that moment.” recommends

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Should Hamilton fail to win his eighth title during F1 2024, his final season with Mercedes, then that pursuit rolls on into Ferrari red. Nonetheless, Hamilton will be carrying the weight of much more than personal goals at Ferrari.

The most successful team in F1 history, Ferrari has not tasted title success in 2008, with their last Drivers’ title triumph coming in 2007, so Hamilton has the opportunity to become a Ferrari legend by taking them back to the F1 pinnacle.

However, Chinchero suspects 2025 will be too soon for that. Instead, he thinks that first season will be the prime opportunity for Hamilton to get settled into Ferrari life, before a title push under the new chassis and power unit regulations to come from 2026.

“I think at the moment the target is to fill the gap with Red Bull,” Chinchero claimed. “Honestly, I think the target is 2026.

“Of course, they will try, like all the others, to fill this gap. But the technical rules are the same until the end of next year, so I think it should be quite difficult.

“But 2026, it’s a big chance. Not only for Ferrari, but for Mercedes, Aston Martin, for McLaren, everyone, it’s a big chance. I think that is the target.

“Lewis will have one season just to understand Ferrari. In terms of procedure, I don’t think that now there are big differences like in the past. The work system is very similar if you go to Mercedes, to Ferrari, but probably the context and scenarios will be completely different. So initially there’ll be time to try to acclimatise a little bit.

“But 2026, I’m sure that the target is to reach the top. I cannot imagine different.”

Hamilton will find himself as team-mate to Charles Leclerc at Ferrari, with Carlos Sainz now on the lookout for a new home come 2025.

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