Lewis Hamilton: What changed Mercedes driver’s mind to join Ferrari for 2025 F1 season

Lewis Hamilton’s shock move to Ferrari for next year is one of the biggest driver changes in F1 history but how did Ferrari sign the seven-time world champion? Watch every F1 race in 2024 live on Sky Sports F1

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Toto Wolff shares how Lewis Hamilton first told him that he would be leaving Mercedes to join Ferrari in 2025.

Lewis Hamilton is going to Ferrari. That’s something nobody thought we would be saying before the upcoming Formula 1 season.

On Thursday, news accelerated throughout the day before it was confirmed Hamilton had signed a multi-year contract to join Ferrari and become Charles Leclerc’s new team-mate from 2025 on a multi-year deal.

The seven-time world champion will replace Carlos Sainz at the start of next year after 12 seasons with Mercedes, who are now looking for a replacement.

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Hamilton has long been linked to Ferrari but it never looked like the switch to F1’s most famous team would ever happen.

When signing a new two-year contract in August 2023, Hamilton stated he and Mercedes had “unfinished business” and that there was “no place” he would rather be.

Fast forward six months Hamilton is walking away, so what has changed the mind of the sport’s most successful ever driver?

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Sky Sports News’ Craig Slater explains why Lewis Hamilton is taking a ‘calculated risk’ by moving from Mercedes to Ferrari in the 2025 F1 season.

Did Hamilton encourage Ferrari approach?

There is a saying in F1 that everyone is a Ferrari fan, even if they aren’t. Some of the sport’s all-time greats including Niki Lauda, Alain Prost, Michael Schumacher, Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel have all driven for Ferrari – but few have delivered a world title.

There were rumours throughout 2018 to 2023 about Hamilton joining Ferrari and in 2021 he opened up to Sky Italy about the prospect.

“It’s definitely going to be crazy to think that I never drove for Ferrari because for everyone that is a dream position to be in,” he said at the 2021 Italian Grand Prix.

“It was just never really fully on the cards for me, and I’ll never know exactly fully why but I wish them all the best and I want to spend the next bit of my time stopping them from winning the championship. I look at the pictures that the two drivers post and the red is ‘still the red’.”

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Following the news Lewis Hamilton is moving to Ferrari in 2025, relive some of his previous comments on potentially joining the team.

Last year, when Hamilton held talks with Ferrari, he insisted his focus was with Mercedes but had considered another move.

“I’d be lying if I said I’d never thought about ending my career anywhere else,” he told ESPN in May 2023.

“I started at McLaren, I’d like to think I’ll always be a part of the McLaren family, I started there when I was 13 years old, so I thought about what it would look like if I was at McLaren one day.

“I thought about and watched the Ferrari drivers on the screens at the track and of course you wonder what it would be like to be in red… But then I go to my team, to Mercedes, and this is my home. I’m happy where I am. I haven’t signed a contract yet.”

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Sky F1’s Martin Brundle believes Lewis Hamilton might have become dissatisfied at Mercedes and could be seeking a new challenge at Ferrari.

Why is Hamilton joining Ferrari now?

It’s been confirmed that Hamilton had a release clause in the contract he signed last year, suggesting he was already thinking about a move away from Mercedes.

However, there were no signs at all that he would announce such a seismic transfer, on football’s Deadline Day of all days, but clearly there have been talks going on during the winter.

“The chronology is interesting. It seems that Mercedes were absorbing and adjusting to the news on Thursday,” Sky Sports News’ Craig Slater said.

“This has been a courtship over some months and to me, with Mercedes having no obvious replacement standing by and having to have Hamilton at the team for a further year, maybe they knew less about it than Ferrari did.”

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Tottenham boss Ange Postecoglou joked with reporters about the Deadline Day signing that got away… Lewis Hamilton!

Ferrari chairman John Elkann would have played a big role in getting Hamilton on board and presenting his vision for the team.

Elkann was the person who chose Frederic Vasseur to replace Mattia Binotto as team principal at the start of 2023.

Vasseur was Hamilton’s team principal when the British driver competed in the GP2 championship, now known as Formula 2, in 2006.

Hamilton won the title on debut before joining F1 the following year with McLaren and he’s always had a good relationship with Vasseur ever since.

Image: Lewis Hamilton won the 2006 GP2 championship with Frederic Vasseur as his team boss

“I talk to him at every GP, he raced for me 20 years ago and we are still close,” Vasseur told Italy’s Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper in August 2023.

“Clearly, if they (the media) see us together in the paddock, there’s a lot of fuss, but the relationship has remained. I don’t want to compare him to our drivers, it wouldn’t make sense.”

Toto Wolff revealed Hamilton told him he was joining Ferrari on Wednesday morning in Oxford over breakfast but it didn’t surprise him that his driver came to that decision.

“I think what he said is that he felt he needed change and I can understand that,” said Wolff. “We’ve been together for 12 years. I don’t know if any other driver has ever been that long with a team.

“We’ve had tremendous success and we shared the opinion when we decided to sign a short-term contract that maybe there are opportunities for him and for us. I think that was maybe one of the considerations – to sign a long-term contract with Ferrari and have a goal at the end of his career.

“We didn’t talk about whether the opportunity was better they are with us because I don’t think you can say.

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Damon Hill and Natalie Pinkham debate whether Lewis Hamilton’s move to Ferrari is the biggest in history on a special edition of the F1 Show.

“At the end of the day, he’s the most successful driver ever and we’ve had a sensational spell together that will go down in the history books. But then we are the Mercedes F1 team and we are the best car brand in the world – a team with legacy and we want to finish this on a high in terms of his career.

“I promise you, we will build another phase of success with more victories and world championships in the years to come. We will look back at this very, very good time with Lewis at Mercedes.”

Parallels to mystic 2013 move

When Hamilton joined Mercedes in 2013, he had a campaign with the Silver Arrows under his belt before the 2014 regulation changes when turbo-hybrid power units were introduced and an era of Mercedes dominance began.

Three-time world champion Lauda convinced Hamilton to join Mercedes and it’s almost as if history is repeating itself again.

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Ralf Schumacher shares why he thinks Ferrari need Lewis Hamilton and what winning a title for them would mean.

The 39-year-old will get a year with Ferrari in 2025 then the eagerly-anticipated 2026 season, when major changes to the technical regulations will take place, could see the pecking order change significantly.

Red Bull enter a new partnership with Ford in that year, so there are major unknowns for them and Hamilton seems to be putting more faith into Ferrari rather than Mercedes to get things right for 2026.

“Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton went on a run of four consecutive world championships, had a year, or in Lewis’ case two years, without success and went to Ferrari,” explained Sky Sports F1’s Karun Chandhok.

“Nigel Mansell had a great run of form with Williams in the mid-1980s, had a wobbly 1988 then went to Ferrari.

“For me, the timing suggests he doesn’t have the confidence that Mercedes are going to dig out of this hole quick enough to challenge Max Verstappen.

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Sky F1’s Ted Kravitz, Damon Hill and Karun Chandhok have their say on the monumental news that Lewis Hamilton will join Ferrari in 2025.

“Lewis Hamilton doesn’t exist to finish second. He probably doesn’t even remember how many times he finished second, third, fourth. He exists to win and he doesn’t think he will get that chance with Mercedes.

“2025 is a transitional year. We have such a big regulation change in 2026. What has John Elkan and Fred Vasseur told him to convince him to go?”

Can focus on racing help Hamilton overcome Leclerc?

Last month, Hamilton reunited with his long-time friend Marc Hynes after ending his agreement with US-based management company Copper.

Hamilton worked with Copper from 2021 to 2023, primarily focussing on expanding Project 44 and other ventures including Mission 44 and the Apple-backed Brad Pitt F1 film.

Bringing back Hynes suggests a focus on the racing side rather than marketing activities.

Image: Lewis Hamilton and Frederic Vasseur have been friends throughout the Mercedes driver's F1 career

“He’s had a couple of years of not winning a race and we’ve seen a couple of other changes he’s made, bringing Marc Hynes back, who was his long-time mentor and eyes and ears in the paddock,” said Sky Sports F1’s Martin Brundle.

“I think he’s probably gone ‘I’m going to stop focusing on all of the things outside of racing and get back to Lewis Hamilton the racing driver’. I think this is a wonderful opportunity to motivate him and energise him for this phase of his career.”

Hamilton will be 40 years old when he joins Ferrari but Fernando Alonso, 42, has shown that modern F1 drivers can still perform at a high level.

In 2023, Hamilton outperformed Russell and he’s still one of the best drivers when it comes to race pace and tyre management.

Image: Lewis Hamilton

Leclerc has similar traits to Russell – exceptional over one lap but then generally not quite as strong as Hamilton when it comes to maximising a stint.

Ferrari have shown though that they will not have team orders and you might think Hamilton is going into Leclerc’s team, but that’s not exactly the case.

Whenever Sainz had the pace against Leclerc, he was given the same opportunity to get the best result for the team and we can expect the same for Hamilton.

“Leclerc, I think, is potentially, on an outright qualifying lap the fastest driver out there at the moment – even including Verstappen,” said Brundle.

“He’s blindingly fast, but tends to run into a few things he shouldn’t ought to because he drives so near the limit – but it’s a wonderful combination.”

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