Ferrari’s new Formula 1 recruit Lewis Hamilton says he is driven by the same “feeling” in making the move as he was when he originally joined Mercedes in 2013.
Hamilton will leave Mercedes at the end of the 2024 F1 season, halfway through what was originally announced as a two-year contract extension, in order to don Scuderia red.
A social media post on Saturday from the seven-time champion marked not quite the first time he’s addressed the move publicly – as he was already quoted in the Mercedes press release announcing his impending exit – but certainly provided a much more detailed look into his thinking.
Hamilton described the stretch that included the signing and its announcement as “a crazy few days which have been filled with a whole range of emotions”.
“I feel incredibly fortunate, after achieving things with Mercedes that I could only have dreamed of as a kid, that I now have the chance to fulfil another childhood dream. Driving in Ferrari red,” he wrote.
And after paying tribute to his Mercedes team, the brand, the late team advisor Niki Lauda and team principal Toto Wolff, and describing the decision as “the hardest I’ve ever had to make”, Hamilton drew a parallel between the move he was embarking on now and his decision to swap McLaren for Mercedes in 2013.
Back then, he had gone from a frontrunning team that finished third in the previous year’s standings to something of a rebuilding project. But it paid off famously, with McLaren entering a long fallow period just as Hamilton left and Mercedes kicking off a run of spectacular dominance once the hybrid engine regulations came into force in 2014.
Now, like then, Hamilton is making his move a year ahead of a major engine regulations change.
“I still remember the feeling of taking a leap of faith into the unknown when I first joined Mercedes in 2013.
“I know some people didn’t understand it at the time but I was right to make the move then and it’s the feeling I have again now.
“However, right now, I’m not thinking about 2025. My focus is on the upcoming season and getting back out on track with Mercedes.
“I am more driven than ever, I am fitter and more focussed than than ever and I want to help Mercedes win once again.”
The Race says
You can see the parallels between Hamilton’s Ferrari bombshell and his shock move to Mercedes in the first place – the surprise, the magnitude of the decision, the prospect of leaving a long-time partner to bet on something that on the surface does not look like an obvious competitive improvement.
But this is still a degree greater. A bigger break-up because at least then he had a degree of continuity given Mercedes had been part of that long-term McLaren support.
He also had a large part of his career ahead of him so had more time for it to come good. And he was only really moving from one UK team to another – he was not uprooting in the same way as he is now.
There are more differences too. He’s towards the end of his driving career now, he’s going into a team where the incumbent driver is young, loved and super-fast. And even if Ferrari builds a stunning 2025 car and nails the 2026 regulations, it’s unlikely that Hamilton has enough time on his side to replicate the longevity of his Mercedes stint, so the chance of repeating the extent of his Mercedes success is low.
All of that is why it’s easy for others to not understand why he is doing this, just as many didn’t over a decade ago. Hamilton describes that as “taking a leap of faith into the unknown” but he had sound reasons for doing it – and the same applies now.
If it is rewarded with wins and maybe even that elusive eighth title then it has undoubtedly worked out competitive. It may be another case of having the right feeling at the right time, making a move that ends up with success that he wouldn’t have had had he stayed in the same place.
But there are other factors that clearly make this right for him. He will be handsomely recompensed just as a driver – there are suggestions of an enormous salary that Mercedes was unwilling or unable to match. He seems to be getting a nailed-on, long-term deal that he wasn’t going to get from Mercedes. And if there was any emerging feeling of Mercedes doubting him, Ferrari and John Elkann seem to have made him feel extremely wanted.
Do not underestimate that. Even F1’s superstars and elder statesmen are human, and feeling the love goes a long way. We saw it with Fernando Alonso, and now we see it with Hamilton.
There also seems to be a real commitment from Ferrari to give Hamilton everything that he wants and needs beyond being a racing driver – whether that’s as a long-term ambassador or supporting his various projects outside F1 committed to diversity and inclusivity initiatives and enacting wider social change. Mercedes has been a great ally in that regard but Ferrari seems willing to continue the work and even invest in growing it further.
Hamilton will be getting a huge amount from his Ferrari deal, on track and off it. And while the move may not make total sense to some observing from afar, if Hamilton is getting even half of what has been rumoured, he is not going to care a jot.