The Lewis Hamilton ‘joke’ that gave Ferrari hope they could swoop for the driver

Michelle Foster
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton in street clothes at the Las Vegas Grand Prix.

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton in street clothes.

Although Ferrari have finally got their man, the much-wanted target of Lewis Hamilton, it’s a deal that could’ve been signed years ago had the Scuderia not extended with Sebastian Vettel.

Signing Vettel back in 2015, the German fell short of the World titles as he lost to the Mercedes team-mates, prompting speculation Hamilton could soon be heading to Maranello.

But with Ferrari re-singing the German in mid-2017, Hamilton publicly stated he would probably never race in red. At least not in the foreseeable future.

‘Lewis made a joke: if you waited twelve months I’d come’

“It’s definitely a dream for every driver, including me,” Hamilton told Sky Italy at the Belgian GP. “Whether or not l will ever be there… I guess definitely not in the next four years or whatever it is – three years.”

The Briton went on to win a further four World titles with Mercedes, leading to one extension after another even when Vettel left the Scuderia.

But now, despite signing a two-year deal with Mercedes last season for 2024/25, of which the latter was an option, Hamilton has announced he will be racing in red next year having not taken up the option.

Ferrari, though, could’ve nabbed their man a lot sooner.

Revealing a visit from Hamilton to the Ferrari factory to pick up a new LaFerrari, Ferrari Vice Chairman Piero Ferrari told Italian journalist Leo Turrini that Hamilton told him something during that visit that “struck him”.

“We had Vettel in the team and we were happy with Seb,” he continued. “We had just renewed the contract with the German, which was going well.

“Lewis made a joke: if you waited twelve months I’d come…”

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Asked if he felt the Briton was already contemplating a future with Ferrari, the Italian replied: “I don’t think so, he lived and is still living a fantastic story with Mercedes.

“But certainly, he was never indifferent to our story. He is also very close to the motoring legend, as a child he had Senna as an idol, in Mercedes in 2013 he took over from Michael Schumacher…”

Told Hamilton’s move to Ferrari was a ‘marriage written in the stars’, Ferrari said: “Well, personally I’m very happy, God forbid. A figure like that of Lewis fits perfectly with the Ferrari myth.”

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