A very silly season: Hamilton to Ferrari

It’s February, and like every year, F1 is back. But this year will be different: it started with what is certainly one of the biggest announcements in the sport in the past decade: Lewis Hamilton driving for Ferrari in 2025.

Silly Season

The 2024 silly season (nb: the few months, generally in August, where rumours and speculations about the F1 driver and engineer market circulate as most contracts are renewed or extended) was bound to be particularly dramatic, with 15 of the 20 driver’s contracts ending at the end of the year, but no one expected it to start this early.

The 2024 silly season was bound to be particularly dramatic, with 15 of the 20 driver’s contracts ending at the end of the year

The only drivers safe from this were Verstappen (2028), Russel (2025), Piastri (2026) and Norris (“long-term”) as well as Stroll, on a “rolling” contract unlikely to end anytime soon with his father owning the team. Albon and Leclerc have since then signed contract extensions with their respective teams.

The start of the year has been particularly eventful in F1, with a lot of drama in the motorsport role: Andretti’s bid for an F1 team in 2025 rejected; Steiner, Haas team principal, fired; Horner under investigation by RedBull for “inappropriate behaviour”; and some new team names, with Alpha Tauri being renamed after virtually every credit card company in the world “Visa Racing Bulls Cash App F1 Team” and Alfa Romeo deciding to go into online gambling marketing with “Stake F1 Team Kick Sauber”.

Why a move now?

But the biggest story, of course, is Lewis Hamilton, 7 time world champion, announcing that he will be leaving Mercedes where he won 6 of his titles, and joining Ferrari from 2025 onwards. This will have repercussions on the entire field, with drivers to be pulled by various teams ahead of the 2026 new regulations.

Hamilton described the decision to leave Mercedes as “one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made”, and it certainly came as a shock to many Silver Arrow fans. The racing driver had said last year that he wanted to finish his career at Mercedes, and win an 8th championship with his team.

The decision to leave Mercedes is understandable from Lewis’ perspective: he hasn’t won a race in over two years since he lost the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and the Championship to Max Verstappen, and the Mercedes car hasn’t exactly been competitive for the past few years.

The decision to leave Mercedes is understandable from Lewis’ perspective: he hasn’t won a race in over two years

Sure, it has shown a few signs of good performance and improvements, with several podiums last year alone, but it is nowhere near RedBull and the front of the grid. Hamilton has consistently complained about the new cars, especially with issues of porpoising, and even commented last year “I had asked for certain changes, and they weren’t done.” Other F1 teams using a Mercedes-Benz engine, such as Aston Martin or McLaren, have even often surpassed the performance of the Silver Arrows last year.

Why Ferrari?

Such big performance downsides could certainly outweigh Hamilton’s attachment to Mercedes, but why go to Ferrari now? Ferrari, of course, is probably the sport’s greatest and most prestigious team – and I am a Ferrari fan myself. But Ferrari hasn’t exactly been showing great performance in the last decade – the last time it won a World Championship was almost 20 years ago.

Ferrari, the team that forgets to bring tyres to a pit stop, and that systematically opts for the wrong strategy on race weekends, forcing Sainz and Leclerc to make up their own strategy as they drive? Ferrari has of course shown signs of success – in the past season Sainz won the Singapore Grand Prix, and both drivers achieved several podiums.

While the performance of the machine was quite good, its reliability was simply inexistant, with Leclerc even having to retire on the formation lap of the 2023 Brazilian Grand Prix because of hydraulic failure. Mercedes and Ferrari overall performed quite similarly in the last few seasons, arriving tied in 2023 in the final Grand Prix, and Mercedes achieving second place by 3 points only. In those conditions, Hamilton’s move to Ferrari is at best optimistic.

it seems at this point unlikely that Hamilton will win his 8th title with Ferrari.

Unless Ferrari shows significant progress in the next season, and RedBull unexpectedly delivers a low-performance car, it seems at this point unlikely that Hamilton will win his 8th title with Ferrari. Of course, the 2026 new regulations should even out the playing field – this might be Hamilton’s chance to be crowned once more. It is rumoured that Hamilton’s contract at Ferrari is 2 years, with a 1 year extension option, but at 39 years old, his chances to win a world title are now counted.

Where will Mercedes go?

Mercedes is a clear loser in this new deal. While Toto Wolff claimed that he “held no grudge” against Hamilton’s move to Ferrari, he was reportedly informed only the day before the news was made public. With the team losing their flagship driver, winning a constructor’s championship in the future seems more unlikely than ever before.

The move should however benefit George Russell, one time race winner, and now Mercedes’ primary diver from 2025 onwards. This should mean a machinery more tailored to his personal driving style, and potentially favourable strategy calls in critical situations.

Mick Schumacher, Mercedes reserve driver, has already stated that he will not be taking Hamilton’s place. The next best candidates could be Andrea Kimi Antonelli, 17yo Italian driver part of Mercedes’ Academy, or Esteban Ocon, who has historic ties to the Silver Arrows. Mercedes’ seat will certainly be one of the most sought after for the 2025 season.

There are rumours that Mercedes engineers Loïc Serra (performance director) and Peter Bonnington (“Bonno”, Hamilton’s race engineer) could also be moving to Ferrari, and that these moves influenced Hamilton’s decision. However, it would not be unlikely that Hamilton’s contract included clauses preventing him from taking with him Mercedes staff when changing teams.

What does this mean for Ferrari, Leclerc, and Sainz?

For Ferrari, acquiring the sport’s greatest ever driver is certainly a victory. It secures the team’s driver line-up for the foreseeable future, with Leclerc having signed a “multi-year” extension earlier last month and Hamilton joining the team for 2-3 years. It boosts its image, and secures its role as a prestigious and historical F1 team – in the past week alone, Ferrari’s stock has gone up nearly 15% following the announcement.

in the past week alone, Ferrari’s stock has gone up nearly 15% following the announcement

For Fred Vasseur, Ferrari team principal replacing Mattia Binotto, this is a clear vote of confidence, which should hopefully secure his position as team principal. Vasseur and Hamilton have known each other for a while, with Vasseur working for the ART Grand Prix GP2 (now Formula 2) team when Hamilton drove for it in 2006.

Hamilton coming to Ferrari is certainly not good news for Leclerc. Leclerc reportedly knew about the possibility of Lewis’ move before signing his “multi-year” contract extension, but this will place him in a difficult and uncomfortable position. While he was until now Ferrari’s primary driver, he will be relegated to second place, his preferences foreseeably coming after those of Hamilton’s. He is certainly world champion material, but any opportunity to win the championship for him has now been pushed back by at least two years.

Sainz is by far the biggest loser for 2025, but his situation may not be as bad as it seems for 2026. Sainz commented that he was “calm”, and wanted to “do the best [he] could” in his last year for Ferrari. While losing your job is of course never fun, this does put him as one of the top contenders for a place in 2026 at Audi, which could be one of the best competitors on the grid.

Final thoughts

Hamilton moving to Ferrari will make the 2024 season awkward for many: Hamilton, Wolff, Sainz, Leclerc, Vasseur, Russel, etc. Will team principals favour the driver staying for the 2025 in strategy calls? Will they be able to maintain impartiality? The rest of the silly season will also certainly be entertaining for F1 fans.

For F1, both the group and the sport in general, this is a good thing: the most talented driver joining the most iconic team has made headlines around the UK and the world, and will most likely increase viewership. But this is also a move that many F1 fans, and especially Mercedes and Ferrari, don’t necessarily understand, with Hamilton’s racing identity being so closely linked to Mercedes, and his personality not necessarily fitting the usual Ferrari style.

The 2025 and 2026 seasons will be some of the most thrilling the sport has seen in decades, and will be shaped by Hamilton moving for Ferrari. Now let’s see what Drive to Survive makes of it.