FEBRUARY 1, 2024
Hamilton set for shock move to Ferrari?
Lewis Hamilton will join Charles Leclerc at Ferrari from the start of 2025, in the most spectacular team switch Formula 1 has seen in the last decade.
The deal should be announced as soon as possible, with Italian sources believing it will be announced before the end of the week, and will leave Carlos Sainz in the market at the end of this year, when his contract with Ferrari will come to an end.
Hamilton and Mercedes announced last August 31st they had extended their contract for another two years, the statement explaining that, “Lewis will drive for the Team in the 2024 and 2025 seasons” and the driver vowing that, “I'm grateful to the team who have supported me both on and off the track. Our story isn't finished, we are determined to achieve more together, and we won't stop until we do.”
It now seems that they will stop before they achieve this goal, as the deal with Ferrari has been agreed in general and what’s missing for the official announcement to be made is the ironing out of minor details.
This move will send shockwaves through the drivers’ market, as an available seat at Mercedes is tempting enough for all drivers, bar Max Verstappen, so even the teams that have their current drivers secure until the end of next year will be nervous about the strength of those contracts.
McLaren was likely aware of what was going on, as the rush to get Lando Norris to extend a deal that only expired at the end of 2025 seemed odd but now makes perfect sense from the team’s point of view, as it will be extremely expensive for the British driver to get out of it now. With Oscar Piastri secure until the end of 2026, McLaren may be the only team safe from a Mercedes attempt to get a new driver, but no one else seems to be in a secure position.
A direct Sainz-Hamilton swap is the most likely scenario at this point, as the Spanish driver would provide Mercedes with a quick, dependable and highly motivated driver, a man with a very high work ethic and a deep understanding of racing, as well as bringing a lot of valuable information from Ferrari.
But there’s another Spanish driver free on the market for 2025 and that would jump at the opportunity to get his hands on a winning car again before bowing out of Formula 1: Fernando Alonso.
The veteran has shown since joining Aston Martin that he hasn’t lost any of the qualities that made him one of the best drivers in Formula 1 since 20 years ago but has recently put on hold renewing the contract with Lawrence Stroll’s team. The Canadian was keen to extend the deal with the two-times World Champion as quickly as possible and while Alonso continued to express his belief in the team’s future, he put the negotiations on ice for a while, probably sensing a better seat could become available for 2025.
The other two names on Toto Wolff’s table are Alex Albon and Andrea Kimi Antonelli and both could be a good option for the long term. The Thai has resurrected his career since he moved to Williams at the start of 2022 and Mercedes has in-depth knowledge of his performances, as the data from the Power Unit is available to the German team, that supplies Williams. He’s also one of George Russell’s closest friends, so the relationship between the two drivers would be an advantage for Mercedes, as any on-track issues could be easily solved in the garage, after the race.
As for the Italian sensation, a lot will depend on how well he does in his maiden Formula 2 season, as he’s jumped in straight from Formula Regional, completely bypassing Formula 3. Given how quick and consistent he was in the Abu Dhabi test, still with last year’s cars, there’s no doubt Antonelli already has the speed to win with much more powerful machinery than the one he’s used to compete with, but the early tests with the new Formula 2 chassis have indicated he’s even stronger with the new cars, particularly in wet conditions, where he's currently blitzing everyone in a test that is under way in Silverstone.
Mercedes is likely to react very quickly to the Ferrari-Hamilton announcement, so the days leading to the launch of the new cars are likely to be very intense for every Team Principal, with the exception of Christian Horner and Andrea Stella, down the field.