Hamilton's Ferrari Gamble Blows F1's Driver Market Open

Hamilton's Ferrari Gamble Blows F1's Driver Market Open

Lewis Hamilton brought the 2024 Formula One season into life in explosive fashion by announcing that he will join Scuderia Ferrari for 2025 on a multi-year deal. The seven-time champion will leave Mercedes, the team he's shared 11 seasons with and secured six of his titles, at the end of 2024 in a move that has turned the F1 world on its head.

Published:
February 6, 2024

It's the sporting story of the year and Formula One's biggest news in a generation, perhaps only akin to Michael Schumacher's retirement. Hamilton has endured two win-less seasons with the German manufacturer — his only two without victory in his F1 career — and will now spend one final championship campaign with the Silver Arrows in 2024. Mercedes-Benz power has propelled the Brit to every lap he's driven in the sport, with his first team, McLaren, utilising Mercedes engines during Hamilton's stint there.

Seventeen years of collaboration ending is a story in itself, but the decision to leave for Ferrari makes the news even more shocking. The famous Prancing Horse is the most successful F1 team in history, but most of the Italian outfit's record numbers come from many decades ago.

Today, Red Bull Racing is the team on top, and there's very little between Mercedes and Ferrari that serves to offer an immediate performance reason to leave. However, the prestige of F1's oldest team and the prestige of racing in scarlet red is a sizeable temptation for any racing driver. Hamilton took to social media to explain it's a 'childhood dream' to race for the Scuderia, as it is for many racers, but few get the chance to do so.

Question marks also surrounded Hamilton's decision to depart McLaren for Mercedes in 2013, and he answered them in dominating fashion by taking 82 of his 103 wins and 148 of his 197 podium trips since moving. Should his intuition to follow his dream prove correct again, he'd become Ferrari's first world champion since Kimi Raikkonen's title 14 years ago.

Hamilton's Ferrari Gamble Blows F1's Driver Market Open

Question marks also surrounded Hamilton's decision to depart McLaren for Mercedes in 2013, and he answered them in dominating fashion by taking 82 of his 103 wins and 148 of his 197 podium trips since moving. Should his intuition to follow his dream prove correct again, he'd become Ferrari's first world champion since Kimi Raikkonen's title 14 years ago.

Even better for the devout Tifosi is Charles Leclerc's announced contract extension one week earlier. Ferrari will field one of the most potent driver pairings in recent memory for 2025 and beyond, with the statistically greatest driver of all time sharing the garage with one of the highest-rated racers without a championship title.

Many are giving Frederic Vasseur, Ferrari's Team Principal, the credit for prising Hamilton away from his long-time home. The Frenchman joined Ferrari to replace outgoing Mattia Binotto a year ago, and his leadership led to the team's Italian national anthem playing in Singapore in the only non-Red Bull victory of the season.

Vasseur was a giant figure in F1's junior ranks, and his management at ART had him in charge of Hamilton during his time in GP2, F1's old feeder championship. Hamilton and Vasseur remained friends over the years, and the 55-year-old's continued contact may have formed the foundation of Hamilton's allegiance switch from the Silver Arrows.

Get in touch with our team today

To find out more about our comprehensive range of services, or to book your vehicle in, contact our friendly team of experts today.

Contact us
Hamilton's Ferrari Gamble Blows F1's Driver Market Open

Driver Market Chaos

The news from Maranello means Carlos Sainz is without a home. Ironically, the Spaniard is the one who bested Red Bull last year, not Leclerc, but he was always the interloping talent after switching from McLaren. Leclerc, meanwhile, was a Ferrari Academy driver before reaching F1 and is very much part of the family. The silver lining for Sainz is that his stock is the highest of all the available drivers looking for a 2025 drive.

Red Bull has Verstappen as their long-term contracted driver, but the seat alongside him is far from certain. Sainz might fancy himself joining the reigning Constructors' champions, making his journey come full circle after joining the sport as a Red Bull Junior. Yet Hamilton's vacated space is also an available option and a straight swap between the two might be the cleanest and quickest option for Toto Wolff's team.

The timing of Hamilton's announcement, shortly after both Leclerc and Lando Norris extended ties with their existing teams, means two sought-after names aren't available. Mercedes will need a headline act to replace the sizeable presence that the seven-time champion has. Perhaps Sainz can fill that gap?

Other names in contention are Fernando Alonso and, after his impressive drives for Williams in 2023, the resurgent Alex Albon. The two are in very different stages of their careers, yet are two leading contenders among the many names whose contracts expire at the end of 2024. Esteban Ocon, still managed by Toto Wolff, is another who might hope to join Mercedes but perhaps isn't as likely to be wearing the three-pointed star next year. Mercedes also has Mick Schumacher as their reserve driver and junior star Andrea Kimi Antonelli as drivers within their ranks they might promote.

Further down the order, Skate F1 (previously Alfa Romeo), Alpine, Williams, Aston Martin, Visa Cash App RB (previously AlphaTauri), and Haas have two seats apiece to fill for 2025. Much will depend on how quickly Mercedes find Hamilton's replacement, as the permutations on who these midfielders can reach will depend on whoever Toto Wolff deems worthy of trying to fill Hamilton's shoes. Whatever happens, though, the so-called 'silly season' of 2024 is well underway, and it promises to be one to remember.

Hamilton's Ferrari Gamble Blows F1's Driver Market Open
Hamilton's Ferrari Gamble Blows F1's Driver Market Open