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Formula 1

Hamilton's Ferrari F1 switch is ruthless but brilliant

by Scott Mitchell-Malm
4 min read

Lewis Hamilton’s stunning switch to Ferrari for 2025 is one of Formula 1’s biggest driver moves ever and should be lauded for its boldness.

Hamilton only signed a new two-year Mercedes deal last summer that was meant to cover 2024 and 2025. That's one of many reasons this is such a big surprise, but it seems that second year is optional on Hamilton’s part and that is what left the door open.

Despite a Ferrari move being rumoured multiple times, most recently in early 2023, Hamilton’s Mercedes renewal and all his comments around the team genuinely seemed to put the prospect to bed. So, it’s worth letting it sink in just how big a deal this is.

It is probably the biggest move in F1 since Hamilton’s last one, when he ditched long-time backer McLaren for Mercedes for 2013, as it edges out Sebastian Vettel’s Red Bull-to-Ferrari switch and Fernando Alonso’s shock McLaren return.

That’s a marker of Hamilton’s standing, given he is F1’s most successful driver ever, and the strength of the Hamilton-Mercedes union. Remember, Mercedes was in Hamilton’s corner in the McLaren days, and it looked like it would eventually transcend F1 into a lifetime ambassadorial relationship.

This is a massive break-up. But it’s also huge for what it sets up.

Hamilton’s in the twilight of his career but even in Mercedes’ difficult last two seasons has been able to show flashes of his brilliant best. Now he moves into Charles Leclerc’s house - giving Leclerc a stunning benchmark but a big test for Hamilton too as Leclerc is arguably the fastest driver in F1 over a single lap.

It’s a proper powerhouse combination and probably becomes the best team-mate pairing in F1, just shading Hamilton and George Russell at Mercedes given Leclerc’s qualifying prowess and the fact he has proven himself as a multiple race winner.

The short-term appeal to Ferrari is obvious. And the arguments for Hamilton seem quite clear too. The emotional appeal speaks for itself - it’s FERRARI - and he will be well recompensed. But there’ll be a competitive pull too.

This will relate to not only 2025 but beyond that with the new car and engine rules in 2026. Remember, Hamilton is one-for-one for making a surprise but super-successful switch ahead of a brand new set of regulations. His Mercedes move was part of setting up for the new era that started in 2014. That worked out pretty well…

Hamilton will obviously be hoping for a repeat of that but he doesn’t need to bank on Ferrari being a clearly superior choice to Mercedes. In a way it just has to not be a worse one.

It needs to be something that gives Hamilton what he needs from personal and competitive standpoints. And Hamilton must relish the Leclerc factor in this move - or at the very least not fear it. Because it’s going to be a massive ask at Hamilton’s age and this stage of his career to go into such a highly rated driver’s own backyard and succeed.

It underlines Hamilton does not fear being measured against another superstar of the next generation, having proven against Russell he is not yet ready to be brushed aside. That’s the kind of self-confidence and example of a driver who backs himself emphatically that really should be celebrated.

It's undeniably bold from Hamilton.

It’s also selfish and ruthless given he has made this decision before what will ultimately be his final season for Mercedes has even begun.

It suggests that whatever Mercedes has done to lose his trust, on some level, cannot be undone in a single season. And means Hamilton is stripping away the emotion and doing what’s best for him, which is all you can expect from any elite sportsperson.

If his contract has such an exit option then all he is doing is honouring his contract. In that sense Hamilton is clearly not doing wrong by Mercedes. And you could easily flip the argument about how early he has made this call and say he has done the right thing by deciding this now and giving Mercedes lots of time to work out a succession plan.

Ultimately, Hamilton’s motivation remains sky-high. He wants to win in F1 again, which is why he’s doing what he always thought he wouldn’t - racing into his 40s.

Mercedes has fallen short of Hamilton’s standards in the last couple of years and while there has been an opportunity to win, as Russell showed with his victory in Brazil in 2022, Hamilton’s not here to snipe for the occasional triumph.

He has not won since the end of 2021 and has a big desire to change that before he finally retires. In that regard nothing has changed about Hamilton’s motivation, commitment and ambition.

The stunning thing is that he has decided that Ferrari, not Mercedes, is the best place to bring that together and aim to end his illustrious career on a high - and has not let sentiment get in the way of making that a reality.

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