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THE ITALIAN JOB- HAMILTON TO FERRARI


There has been a paradigm shift in Formula One. Lewis Hamilton, the record 7-time World Driver’s Champion will be leaving Mercedes to join 16-time constructors champions, Scuderia Ferrari at the end of the 2024 season. This is the biggest driver transfer in all of Formula One’s storied history since Michael Schumacher himself joined the Prancing Horse and the spontaneity of the deal has taken everyone by surprise and it is the only thing that’s on the mind of every single motor-racing enthusiast.


HAM-MER TIME ENDS! 


Ferrari and Sainz’s negotiations were stalling for some time and when the former saw the opportunity to sign Lewis, they acted in haste. The talks went unexpectedly swift with the chairperson of Ferrari, John Elkann playing a key role in bringing Hamilton in. Once the deal was said to be completed, news reports flew in from Italy stating that Hamilton had signed for the legendary organization.


Mercedes Team Principal Toto Wolff was startled by the timing of the decision as he said both parties were aligned even during December. He received the confirmation from Hamilton whilst the two had a conversation at former’s home in Oxford. The staff were then called into the Brackley headquarters to be informed about the Brit’s sudden departure. Soon after statements were released from both teams thereby confirming the astounding shake-up that’s taken place.


ONSET OF DECLINE AND THE END OF AN ERA.


The last few years have been forgettable for both Lewis and Mercedes. Since the infamous 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix where he lost the title in controversial fashion to Max Verstappen, the Brit has looked far from his dominant best.


With new design regulations in place in 2022, the team took some radical steps to optimize the ground effect on the W13 car which backfired completely with Hamilton himself stating the car wasn’t far off the worst car he ever driven. He could not handle the extreme porpoising and suffered a downturn in performances. 2023 wasn’t great either as the team lacked serious race pace behind the superior Red Bull RB19. This ultimately led to him having back-to-back win-less seasons, something that had never happened in his career.  


In spite of the disappointment, Hamilton had reportedly extended with the team until 2025 and everyone felt he would remain there until retirement.  It was only after the news of his unforeseen departure when it was revealed that the 39-year-old only signed a 1-year deal with the option for both sides to extend it for 2025, thereby keeping options open.


Lewis’s stint with Mercedes is where he really cemented himself amongst the all-time greats. Convinced by the legendary Niki Lauda to join the project, Hamilton and Mercedes have gone on to completely dominate the turbo-hybrid era, winning a staggering 8 consecutive constructor’s titles with Hamilton taking 6 drivers titles whilst breaking multiple records including the most wins, pole positions and laps led by a Formula One driver. The man from Stevenage produced some of F1’s most iconic performances including the astonishing 2018 pole at Singapore, an epic battle with Nico Rosberg at Bahrain in 2014, a wet weather masterclass at Turkey in 2020 to secure his 7th Drivers title, and his incredible Brazilian Grand Prix in 2021 where he stormed through the pack after receiving grid penalties to take a stunning first place, which he describes as the best race of his career.


On signing with Ferrari this marks the end of one of the most dominant periods in Formula One’s history, held in a similar vein to Michael Schumacher and his time with the Scuderia.


WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS FOR MERCEDES?


Once Lewis informed Toto of his decision, the two discussed how to go about handling the current season ensuring both sides would work together till the end to try and achieve success. The Austrian held no grudge and fully respected Hamilton’s choice. Whilst the timing was erratic, the team always remained pragmatic in their approach and had been imagining a future without the record champion.


The spotlight now shifts onto George Russell. The man from King’s Lynn will be the main man to drive Mercedes back to the top step of success. In terms of finding his new teammate, options are certainly enticing for the German team. With multiple high-profile drivers’ contracts being up in 2025, Fernando Alonso is high their radar. Mick Schumacher, Mercedes’ reserve driver as well as the outgoing Carlos Sainz have also been linked to the second seat.


With only 24 races to go before this incredible 11-year partnership ends, both Lewis and Mercedes will look to finish on a high. It is a mammoth task to replace someone of Hamilton’s caliber and the team will be actively on the lookout this season to bolster their lineup. It will also be the start of a new journey for Mercedes without their star man at the helm as they look to get back to the top of the Formula One standings once more.  


WHAT NOW FOR CARLOS SAINZ?



The biggest loser of the whole deal is Carlos Sainz. Many will feel that Sainz has been hard done by Ferrari as now he finds himself without a team for the 2025 season. The situation however is not dire, as with most of the driver’s contracts expiring in 2024, the Spaniard’s name will shoot to the top of the list for many teams during the 2025 off-season. He has been linked with Audi for quite some time as they enter the grid in 2026.


In his 3 seasons at the team, Sainz has showcased that he certainly can be a force to be reckoned with. Having bounced around teams quite often, Sainz is not a quitter and he will continue to fight for his place in Formula One. He remains fully focused on the 2024 season and will look to add more to his tally at Ferrari having already won 2 races and 12 podiums for the team.


A NEW DAWN AT MARANELLO.


Formula One’s titans have not lived up to their standards. Heartbreak after heartbreak, the struggles have been infinite at Ferrari and as a result, they have been crownless as a team since 2008. The wind has been taken out of the scarlet sails and the spirits of the fans have been deflated. However, with the news of Hamilton’s arrival, there is renewed energy and a buzz surrounding the team which hasn’t been there since Michael’s time at the Scuderia. Ferrari’s shares even rose by 24.12% on the New York Stock Exchange in the last 5 days when the news got divulged to the public. Such is the enormity of the announcement.


In order to bring Hamilton to Ferrari, the organization have invested a significant amount of money with reports of Hamilton signing a multi-year deal with an annual salary of approximately $100 million. John Elkann, mentioned earlier also promised a $250 million contribution from the joint investment fund with Exor, for Hamilton’s diversity projects including Mission44. Hamilton will also reunite with Frédéric Vasseur who was his team Principal at ART Grand Prix in the GP2 series and now Team Principal and General Manager at Ferrari.


A SHIFT OF POWER?



The main question that comes to people’s minds is how the arrival of Hamilton impacts the dynamic at Ferrari. After all, it’s evident that the organization still show huge faith in Charles Leclerc.


Leclerc’s capability was seen in his debut season at Ferrari when he overcame a dominant Hamilton in an epic fight at Monza. Even when the Italian team had a dismal 2020 campaign, Leclerc produced results that spoke volumes about his ability to outperforming in difficult scenarios. He has also displayed astonishing one-lap pace producing 23 poles making him one of the best qualifiers on the F1 grid.


However, the 26-year-old is prone to making mistakes that have cost him race wins, podiums and with Ferrari consistently failing to make a competent racing package, they’ve continued to fall short in both championships. Ferrari recently extended Leclerc’s contract beyond 2025, thereby confirming that he’s still their main man.


With Hamilton joining and him still remaining hungry for more glory, it be intriguing to find out who will come out on top in the teammate battle.


CHILDHOOD ASPIRATIONS COME TRUE!



From an emotional standpoint there is a romanticism in driving for the Scuderia. Enzo, the beloved founder, was a perfectionist. His vision, meticulous attention to detail and quest for excellence propelled Ferrari to being the greatest name in all of motorsport. The essence of Ferrari is captured perfectly by a quote associated with him, “Ask a child to draw a car, and certainly he will draw it red.”


The Prancing Horse is not only a symbol of power, but it stands as a paragon of beauty, elegance, simplicity and passion. That passion runs deep in the souls of Tifosi: The loudest and the proudest set of people who generate electricity, have unwavering faith and create an atmosphere as intense as the Colosseum. The passionate crowd, the iconic red cars, and the legacy associated driving for such a prestigious institution remains a childhood dream for every single racing driver including Hamilton who is excited to race in Ferrari red. Sebastian Vettel, the 4-time F1 World Champion fervently stated,” Everyone is a Ferrari fan. Even if they say they’re not, they are Ferrari fans.”


Some of the greatest drivers in history of the sport including Juan Manuel Fangio, Kimi Raikkonen, John Surtees, Gilles Villeneuve, Nigel Mansell, Alain Prost, Niki Lauda, Alberto Ascari and Nino Farina have all driven for the legendary team. Michael Schumacher came to the organization and elevated and established their legacy even further with his fabled stint with the Scuderia. Hamilton will soon join that elite list and hope to bring Ferrari the status of World Champions once more whilst trying to become a record 8-time World Champion.


CONCLUSION.



With Ferrari seeming to pull off the modern equivalent of the Italian Job, the future prospects are already electrifying the fans. With many names floating around for the Mercedes second seat, there will definitely be more to the story in the upcoming few months. Eager eyes will also be on Carlos Sainz and Ferrari who will look to finish their journey together in good terms. Finally, everyone will tune in to the last dance of Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton, bringing the curtain down on one of the greatest stories in modern Formula One history.

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