While the announcement that 7 time Formula One Champion Sir Lewis Hamilton (39) will leave his current Mercedes-AMG team for Scuderia Ferrari in 2025, came as a surprise to many, his team principal Toto Wolff probably knew by end of last year already. In a multi-year contract, Hamilton will make the move at the end of the 2024 season, which itself has not even begun at this point. This is a rare occasion in F1 where a driver – especially one of Hamilton’s stature – announces his departure so early in his last season. Why Wolff would allow this to happen is subject to much speculation.

The relationship between Hamilton and his current team has of lately, been strained. Yes the popular motto is “we win and lose together as a team”. However, there have been moments when the driver has probably felt unsupported by this team, especially over the past two seasons when they have been struggling to win single races, let alone a whole Championship. On one or two occasions, he has even voiced out his frustrations.

Hamilton can drive a dog of a car all season long, as long as he feels that the team is working on improving things and they have his back. I don’t know exactly when this trust was broken, but it is quite clear now that he does not believe in them anymore. Have they also lost faith in him? That cannot be inferred, simply because last year they tried for months to get him to sign a new contract. And he stalled. Just as he stalled most of 2018 when speculation that he was joining Ferrari surfaced. That obviously didn’t happen. Instead the team signed his 2025 teammate Charles Leclerc, replacing Kimi Raikkonen who was summarily shoved out. Ferrari chairman John Elkann has been trying to court Hamilton for years. His reason is simple; a top team like his needs a top driver like him.

That Ferrari is currently a third-top team, second at best, is no secret. They seem to have a good qualifying car, but stumble when it matters the most; winning races. For example, in 2023 Ferrari took 7 pole positions, mostly by Leclerc (5), but they only won one race in Singapore by Carlos Sainz. Mercedes-AMG did not win any races last season. So it seems there is better potential to win at Ferrari. But this is F1, anything can change at any time.

Michael Schumacher left the Benetton team in 1996 to join a Scuderia Ferrari in tatters. The legendary team had not won a Championship since Mzansi native Jody Scheckter took the honours in 1979. Within three seasons they had built a top 2 competitor. Hamilton himself joined Mercedes-AMG at a time when they were not the fastest car on the grid. It is possible he wants to emulate this again and win his 8th official title with the most fabled team on the grid.

This could be the most brazen move Hamilton has ever made. It might end up cementing his legendary status as the only driver to win 8 titles or more. Or it could backfire and he retires in a car that ultimately does not live up to its full potential. Either way, his presence will certainly galvanise a new wave of interest in him, Ferrari and F1 as a whole.

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