Mika Hakkinen points out Lewis Hamilton’s potential Ferrari pitfalls

Thomas Maher
Mika Hakkinen, Singapore Grand Prix 2023.

Mika Hakkinen has told PlanetF1.com his thoughts on Lewis Hamilton's sensational switch to Ferrari for 2024.

Mika Hakkinen suspects Lewis Hamilton will face a stern challenge to win an eighth world championship when he moves to Ferrari next season.

The seven-time F1 World Champion has opted for pastures new for 2025, departing Mercedes after more than a decade and six of his drivers’ titles, as he joins Ferrari to replace the departing Carlos Sainz.

Mika Hakkinen: It’s a big change for Lewis Hamilton

Having only raced with McLaren and Mercedes ever since entering Formula 1 at the start of 2007, Hamilton will race with new colours and a new engine when he switches to the Scuderia in 2025.

Ferrari hasn’t won a driver’s title since Kimi Raikkonen in 2007, and two-time F1 World Champion Mika Hakkinen believes Hamilton will face a big challenge to integrate with the Italian team when he moves across next year.

“I can see that he wants to win, of course, like everybody else wants to win,” he told PlanetF1.com ahead of the Bahrain Grand Prix, when asked for his thoughts on Hamilton’s sensational team move.

“I think he probably experienced that, with the Mercedes, maybe he thinks the Mercedes isn’t able to give him a car where he can win.

“Probably he’s seeing the opportunity that, with Ferrari, they can bring him a car where he can win.

“But it’s quite a big change for him, because he’s been in a British team – let’s call it this way – for so many, many years.

“To now change to an Italian team, where he doesn’t have experience, it can be quite a big change for him – to understand the philosophy, and how they work.

“This has nothing to say they don’t work well or they don’t do the right thing, but it’s a big change.”

Mika Hakkinen: Charles Leclerc won’t make it straightforward for Lewis Hamilton

But, with Hamilton and Mercedes seemingly no closer to title challenging in 2024 than they were two years ago at the beginning of the current regulations, Hakkinen said the change of scenery could be a big boost for the British driver.

“For the moment where he’s in his career, it must be very exciting and motivating for him to continue with this great sport,” he said.

“I think it opens up opportunities to other drivers, too, this year is a big year because so many contracts are finishing and there’s going to be a lot of changes.”

But is it the environment in which he can win a record-breaking eighth title, and finally topple the record of seven that he shares with Michael Schumacher?

“That’s impossible to say. It’s all about the car,” the Finn replied.

“If they’re able to build the car and fix the problems that they have, then there is a possibility.”

Hamilton, who will turn 40 as he switches across to Ferrari, will have to face off against the team’s leading driver Charles Leclerc, with the young Monegasque having shown the pace and temerity to be a world championship challenger when the machinery is under him.

With such a formidable opponent in the other car, Hakkinen reckons Hamilton won’t have the easiest time getting one over on his new teammate.

“You have Charles Leclerc over there, and he has been with the team for a long time,” he said.

“He’s a very talented young driver and the car is tailor-made for him. So it’s not going to be so straightforward, in my opinion.”

With the allure of Ferrari well known to all F1 drivers, due to their history and prestige over more than seven decades of racing in the sport, is Hakkinen surprised to have seen Hamilton take such a risk for the final years of his career?

“I think it’s purely to have a change,” he said.

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“He’s been at Mercedes for so long, and he has achieved everything with Mercedes – they have reached the pinnacle of results.

“I think he wants to now go to another team and try to find the same type of journey, and that, one day, they can become winners. But it’s all about people. It’s not about wishbones or uprights or wings, it’s about the people.”

Having won his own two titles with McLaren in the late 1990s, was Hakkinen himself ever tempted to make the switch to Maranello and race in red?

“No,” he laughed.

“When I was racing, they probably would have been happy to have me. But Michael Schumacher was there. I didn’t want to be next to him!”

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