Leon Lewis? Glory is not guaranteed as Hamilton looks to revive Ferrari

<span>Sebastian Vettel arrived at Ferrari in 2015 as a four-time F1 world champion, but left with the same number of titles.</span><span>Photo: Max Rossi/Reuters</span>” src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/_HICRlFwySVBmRFLHAsU8g–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTU3Ng–/https://media.zenfs.com/en/theguardian_763/4c2a16ab7b4eca663efffb4d5b 72b2a3″ data-src= “https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/_HICRlFwySVBmRFLHAsU8g–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTU3Ng–/https://media.zenfs.com/en/theguardian_763/4c2a16ab7b4eca663efffb4d5b72b2 a3″/></div>
<p><figcaption class=Sebastian Vettel arrived at Ferrari in 2015 as a four-time F1 world champion, but left with the same number of titles.Photo: Max Rossi/Reuters

Enzo Ferrari loved his English drivers. In 1958, bow-tied Mike Hawthorn became the team’s third world champion. John Surtees won the title in 1964, ending a period of internal unrest. When Ferrari died in 1988 at the age of 90, he had just signed Nigel Mansell for the following season. He liked Mansell’s aggression and his competitive spirit. He would certainly have appreciated Lewis Hamilton too.

As Hamilton noted while the ground was still shaking from Thursday’s sudden announcement that he will join the Scuderia Ferrari in 2025, he already knows what driving from Maranello is like. He has two in his garage in California. Next year he will take the relationship one step further, into the realm of every young driver’s dreams.

Related: How Mercedes was left stunned by Hamilton’s quick switch to Ferrari | Giles Richards

The signs are mixed. The seven-time world champion joins a team that boasts a record of 243 victories from 1,076 Grands Prix. Given that his personal tally is 103 wins from 332 starts, also a record, Hamilton is unlikely to be impressed by the statistics.

But Ferrari’s long history is steeped in periods of prolonged agony, when victory could not be bought for love or money, such as the dry spells they endured in the late 1960s, early 1970s and throughout the 1980s and 1990s. They are now in another drought, without a drivers’ champion since 2007 and without a constructors’ title since 2008.

Hamilton is currently in his own low point. After at least one race win a year between 2007, his debut season and 2021, he has now spent two years without a win, a bitter sequel to the chance for an eighth title wrongly squandered as the 2021 season culminated in Abu Dhabi.

At the age of 39, and with perhaps only two or three years left at the top, he appears to have come to the conclusion that his current team’s cars are unlikely to match the currently untouchable performance of Max Verstappen’s Red Bull before a new set of technical regulations come into force in 2026.

He will miss the close relationships that have developed at Mercedes over the years. Toto Wolff, the team boss, is the man who agreed to have the cars historically known as Silver Arrows painted black in tribute to the Black Lives Matter movement – ​​a decision hardly conceivable at Ferrari, where red is sacred is, even though the precise shade was once adjusted to match that of their sponsor, Marlboro cigarettes. He will miss Mercedes technical director James Allison and his racing engineer Pete Bonnington.

But the presence of Fred Vasseur, who took over as team boss at Ferrari a year ago, may have changed his decision. They won the Formula 3 and GP2 titles alongside Vasseur teams, while Hamilton was a member of McLaren’s driver development programme. Now Vasseur hopes to emulate the impact of Jean Todt, the only other Frenchman to manage the team, who arrived in 1995, attracted Michael Schumacher to Maranello and oversaw a string of titles that returned the Scuderia to what they have always believed in. belong.

Hamilton proved the skeptics wrong when he moved from a dominant McLaren team to the underperforming Mercedes team in 2013. Presumably Vasseur has convinced him that Ferrari now has the technical firepower to match Red Bull, and that there will be no repeat of the strategic mistakes that often destroy the promise of recent seasons.

He will race alongside the gifted Charles Leclerc, thirteen years his junior, knowing that while Enzo Ferrari always encouraged internal competition, the team worked most effectively in the periods when first Niki Lauda and then Schumacher had a clear number 1 had status. Hamilton will have to fight for that priority against a teammate who is both embedded and cherished in Maranello.

But even in times of trial, the red cars remain unique, the only team to have competed in every world championship since the first series in 1950. They were a new team at the time, but within a year they had their first Grand Prix victory and were soon celebrating the triumphs of Alberto Ascari, the first of their nine drivers to win the world title.

Those nine champions represented eight different nationalities: an Italian, an Argentinian, an American, an Austrian, a South African, a German, a Finn and the two English. Hawthorn became Britain’s first world champion at the wheel of a Ferrari named after Dino, Enzo’s beloved first son, who had died two years earlier at the age of 24 from muscular dystrophy. Peter Collins, Hawthorn’s friend and teammate, had befriended Dino during his illness. The English pair’s red cars were neck and neck in the championship when Collins was killed at the Nürburgring.

A year after Hawthorn’s title, another Englishman, Tony Brooks, came within touching distance of the championship for Ferrari. In 1962, Stirling Moss, the greatest English racer of his generation, was about to race a Ferrari in F1 when a crash ended his career. Two years later, Surtees restored the team’s luster, but other Englishmen – Cliff Allison, Mike Parkes, Jonathan Williams and Derek Bell – made less of an impression when they briefly raced for the team in the 1960s.

The company was still mourning Enzo’s death when Mansell raised hopes by winning the first race of the 1989 season. He left after two years, a victim of internal politics, but with a nickname – Il Leone – reflecting the qualities that had earned him a place in the hearts of the Italian fans.

Hamilton will want to leave with more than just a nickname. Of the five drivers who, like him, were already world champions when they joined Ferrari, two – Juan Manuel Fangio and Schumacher – won further titles with the team. The three others – Alain Prost, Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel – had their hopes for further glory dashed very publicly and sometimes humiliatingly. As Hamilton will discover, a Ferrari driver exists in a world where there are no half measures.

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