Lewis Hamilton’s Ferrari switch parallels his courageous decisions in the past

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Lewis Hamilton’s very unexpected move to Ferrari has ensured that on transfer deadline day the biggest deal of all was done in Formula 1, and not in football. Never one to shy away from a challenge, the seven-time world champion makes his boldest move yet on the final roll of the dice of his career.

This is a breathtaking and exciting deal. By choosing to leave Mercedes for Ferrari in 2025, Hamilton has made the most important team change of the century. After signing a new contract with Mercedes in August last year and after years of repeatedly denying rumors of a move to Ferrari, the 39-year-old has declared his intention to end his career with the most famous, most legendary and most successful team. in F1 history.

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There’s no denying that it was a shock, as Hamilton insisted last season he was happy and confident at Mercedes, with whom he has won six of his seven titles, and indicated he would continue his career with the team. However, the British driver’s decision is far from unprecedented as there are parallels from his past that are impossible to ignore.

At the end of 2012, after winning his first title with McLaren in 2008, he announced he would be leaving the team to join Mercedes in 2013. It was a decision that caused similar consternation and was questioned and derided. McLaren was a proven, championship-winning team, while Mercedes was entrenched as a relative newcomer in midfield.

Some felt this was career suicide, but just a year later Hamilton won the title and five more followed, while the team won eight consecutive Constructors’ Championships. Hamilton had joined them based on what team boss Ross Brawn and former world champion Niki Lauda had presented about the promise in Mercedes, especially before the new regulations in 2014. Hamilton liked what he saw and went along with it, trusting his instincts. .

They turned out to be right with extraordinary consequences, and it is impossible not to imagine that there is similar reasoning behind this move. Of course, there is an element of romance in his decision. Everyone wants to drive for the Scuderia – handling the Prancing Horse’s scarlet cars means being part of F1 history and being the only team to have competed in every world championship since its inception in 1950. In the middle of the maelstrom and magic that makes Ferrari the most famous brand in the world.

Nevertheless, it is likely that what primarily drove Hamilton was the belief that it is Ferrari and not Mercedes that offer the best chance of him winning an eighth title. He knows the team boss, Fred Vasseur, well having raced for him in GP3 and F2, and he and Ferrari must have given Hamilton enough convincing evidence that they are capable of delivering the machines he desires, if not in 2025 or with the most important regulations. change from 2026.

This won’t simply be a matter of wanting to add Ferrari to his CV before dropping out. Hamilton must believe he can win a title with the team. That is also indicative of how his faith in Mercedes has eroded over the past two seasons as they have delivered an uncompetitive car and that, despite protestations to the contrary, he does not believe they are best placed to be the team to suit Max Verstappen and Red Bull.

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It is a task that he knows cannot be underestimated. Ferrari has not won a drivers’ title since Kimi Räikkönen took the championship in 2007, narrowly beating Hamilton in his explosive debut season.

The longest drought the Scuderia has suffered is a challenge that has defeated the best. In the past fifteen years, two multiple world champions, Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel, have joined Ferrari with the vision of making glory in Scarlet the pinnacle of their careers. Both ended up disillusioned and titleless.

Hamilton, like them, will have to adapt to a new team after building Mercedes around him for twelve seasons. It is a huge task, which he must carry out with enthusiasm. The team has consistently underperformed lately. Beaten by Mercedes last season, they have fallen short operationally and tactically, sometimes faltering under pressure, albeit with some improvement when Vasseur took charge last season.

The pressure is another factor he will have taken into account and must embrace. Hamilton is used to scrutiny as he enters his 17th season in the sport, but it will now be on a completely different level. The expectations of Ferrari supporters, the tifosiwho is demanding under the best conditions will shoot off the scale with a driver of his caliber and experience.

Yet he knows what it means to them when they win and how they hold drivers in their hearts. Nigel Mansell only won three races for Ferrari in two seasons, but they admired his determination and tenacity and dubbed him Il Leone – The Lion. Imagine how they will react when Hamilton finally wins the championship.

It is an immense coup for Ferrari. To pull it off is a huge statement of intent from them. They will have the best driver pair on the grid with Charles Leclerc, the very fast young man, alongside Hamilton, who has great experience. If building towards 2026 is the plan, no driver can bring anymore to the table or the garage.

His absence will be painfully felt at Mercedes. The team boss, Toto Wolff, has become very close friends with Hamilton and their relationship has always been seen as one of the central factors in his loyalty to the team. Wolff will understandably be injured and his team must now embark on the very difficult task of replacing a driver who is virtually irreplaceable and there are no candidates who even come close to Hamilton’s skills and stature. He will have left a hole in the heart of the team.

Now Hamilton must build a similar relationship at Maranello after a bold, bracing decision that must be admired. Hamilton has nothing left to prove and is already known as the most successful F1 driver of all time. But if he achieves championship success at Ferrari, the deal struck on transfer deadline day in 2024 will go down in history as the moment he opened the final chapter of what will remain F1’s greatest legacy.

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