Forget football transfer deadline day on Thursday. The one twist most sports fans were talking about was the announcement that seven-time Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton will leave Mercedes at the end of this season to join Ferrari in 2025, replacing Carlos Sainz at the Italian team.
“There’s no two ways about it. For me, it’s the biggest driver transfer in the history of the sport. Amazing story,” Formula 1 broadcaster Will Buxton said on social media.
Despite signing an extension with Mercedes until 2025 in August last year, the team said in a statement that Hamilton had “activated his release option in the contract” and would leave the Silver Arrows at the conclusion of next season.
Hamilton said in the statement: “I spent 11 wonderful years with this team and I am very proud of what we achieved together… Making the decision to leave was one of the most difficult decisions I have ever had to make.” “But the time is right for me to take this step and I am excited to take on a new challenge.”
Ferrari announced shortly after that it had signed Hamilton to a “multi-year contract”.
Before Red Bull’s recent dominance of Formula 1, the Hamilton-Mercedes partnership had become synonymous with success, with the German manufacturer claiming eight constructors’ world championships and Hamilton winning the drivers’ title six times.
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Hamilton celebrates after claiming his seventh drivers’ title in 2020.
For Ferrari, this is a remarkable coup, having lured a driver considered by many to be the greatest of all time away from the team with which it won six championships. For Mercedes, this is a devastating loss, as it is unable to retain generational talent and the face of its entire motorsport brand.
There is danger in Hamilton’s decision to replace the silver stocks with the prancing horse. He has been so successful with Mercedes that it is difficult to imagine the 39-year-old Briton racing for any other team.
Hamilton holds the record for most Formula 1 victories (103), with 82 with Mercedes and 21 with McLaren. His association with the German manufacturer goes back more than 25 years, when he was signed as a rookie driver by McLaren – which used Mercedes engines – when he was 13 years old.
Hamilton would leave a team he knew well – leaving behind the mechanics and engineers he had built relationships with – to move into unknown territory.
Clive Mason/Getty Images
Hamilton and Mercedes have dominated Formula 1 in the past decade.
the Scuderia It is statistically the most successful Formula 1 team of all time, although it has not claimed a constructors’ title since 2008, the year Hamilton won his first Formula 1 title with McLaren, and has not produced a world champion driver since 2007.
Although Ferrari was challenged by Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel in 2012 and 2017 respectively, it was unable to make a difference in Red Bull’s era of dominance between 2010 and 2013 and fell victim to Mercedes’ dynasty for the remainder of that decade.
Now, Red Bull, led by three-time world champion Max Verstappen, is back at the top again and Ferrari can’t get any closer.
Charles Leclerc briefly tried to challenge Verstappen at the start of the 2022 season, although the Ferrari drivers finished behind Hamilton in 2023 and the Mercedes drivers were overtaken by Mercedes. Scuderia To second place in the constructors’ race.
Success in red is no guarantee for Hamilton, who will also have to compete with new teammate Leclerc, who has an established position in the team and has long been touted as Ferrari’s next drivers’ champion.
Leonard Voyager – Reuters
Hamilton, who was embroiled in a title tussle with team-mate Nico Rosberg in 2016, will join highly-rated Leclerc at Ferrari.
Despite Hamilton’s clear ability to defy the effects of time, age may also be a factor in the extent of his achievements with the Maranello-based team.
“He (Hamilton) will actually be 40 when he starts racing for Ferrari, which is remarkable in itself that he’s starting this new chapter so late in his career,” PA Media’s Formula 1 correspondent Phil Duncan told CNN Sport.
The oldest man to win a Formula 1 world title is Juan Manuel Fangio at the age of 46 in 1956 and no driver has won a championship in his 40s since Jack Brabham in 1966.
Winning a title in his 19th year in the sport means Hamilton will do something unprecedented in the modern era.
But this move may be a masterstroke.
“A change of scenery can completely rejuvenate you,” CNN’s Coy Wire said on World Sport. “Going to a new building, getting new teammates, no more stagnation.”
Wire pointed to the NFL as an example, explaining that Tom Brady’s decision to end his 20-year tenure with the New England Patriots and sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers “brought him back to life,” as the quarterback won a Super Bowl with the franchise. In 2021.
Hamilton’s move could revitalize the seven-time world champion and give him another chance to compete at the top of the sport. It also reunites him with Ferrari team principal Fred Vasseur, for whom Hamilton competed at junior level.
Hamilton has not won since December 2021, having watched Verstappen win the world title in the final race of that season and then lap the field in 2022 and 2023.
Much of this can be attributed to Mercedes essentially falling off a cliff after 2021. New technical regulations were introduced in 2022, and while Red Bull swam, Mercedes sank.
The team appeared uncompetitive, finishing hundreds of points behind Red Bull and missing out on podium finishes to the likes of Ferrari, McLaren and Aston Martin. Last season, the Mercedes driver failed to win a race in an entire season for the first time since 2011.
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The last two seasons have been a bumpy ride for Hamilton, as he’s pictured here clashing with Fernando Alonso in 2022.
A damning condemnation of the development of the Mercedes car It came over the airwaves From team principal Toto Wolff in Austria last year: “Lewis, the car is bad, we know that. Please drive it.”
It is uncertain whether Hamilton would have better on-track fortunes at Ferrari, but with the Mercedes operation stagnating, it may be worth jumping to the more established racing team.
Aside from everything else, this move holds significance on a personal level for Hamilton. He had previously described driving for Ferrari as a “dream” and was unsure why the move had not been made there. Now, as Duncan said, it’s a dream “come true.”