Mercedes contract warning to Lewis Hamilton as he heads for Ferrari homeland

Oliver Harden
Lewis Hamilton faces questions in a press conference with a prominent Ferrari logo alongside him

Could Lewis Hamilton pay Ferrari a little visit during F1's trip to Imola?

Damon Hill, the 1996 World Champion, has warned Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton to think twice about visiting Ferrari’s Maranello factory after this weekend’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

This weekend will see Hamilton race on Italian soil for the first time since announcing that he will join Ferrari on a multi-year-contract from the F1 2025 season.

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He will become the first British driver to race for the famous Scuderia on a full-time basis since Eddie Irvine in 1999.

The seven-time World Champion is expected to receive a rapturous reception from the Ferrari fans, commonly known as the tifosi, at the historic Imola circuit this weekend.

Appearing on the F1 Nation podcast alongside Hill, press conference host Tom Clarkson tipped Hamilton to play up to the crowd and create “a real feel-good factor” at the first European round of the F1 2024 season.

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He said: “It will be interesting to see what sort of reception Lewis gets from the tifosi this weekend at Imola.

“I think he’s going play to the crowd, I think we’re going to see waves from the cockpit.

“From the pit lane at Imola, you can see the hill up there on the left, which will be covered in red, and I think he’s going to come away from Imola with a real feel-good factor.

“They’re going to be chanting his name, there’s going to be banners, it’s going to be fantastic.

“And Imola is 56 miles from Maranello. Surely he’s going to go there on the Monday after the race, right?”

Addressing Hill, he then quipped: “I think you and I should go there, wait outside Ferrari on Monday and just welcome him in because I’m sure he’s going to be there. Why wouldn’t he?”

Hill, however, responded by claiming that Toto Wolff, the Mercedes boss, would be unimpressed with Hamilton visiting Ferrari’s base when he is still under contract with his current employers.

He joked: “Do you think Toto will be saying: ‘Listen, you can go but you’ve got to bring something back in terms of information?’

“I don’t know. I can imagine Toto saying: ‘Well, you’re still under contract, mate. You shouldn’t be fraternising with the enemy just yet.'”

Hill’s comments come after Hamilton admitted last month that he is unsure if Mercedes will allow him to start work with Ferrari before F1 2025.

It is not uncommon for drivers to be released early from their contracts ahead of big moves, with Hamilton’s former title rival Sebastian Vettel freed from his Red Bull deal to test for Ferrari at Fiorano in November 2014, two months before he officially joined the Prancing Horse.

Asked about the possibility of starting work with Ferrari before the end of F1 2024, Hamilton vowed to consult Wolff on the matter.

He said: “I think it will start with a conversation with Toto because I don’t know how to navigate that.

“I don’t think I was at Mercedes until December [2012], when the first seat fitting was made after the season. I’m not sure how I’m going to do it this time.”

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