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F1 Shocker: Lewis Hamilton leaves Mercedes, joins Ferrari and Charles Leclerc to create “superteam”

Mercedes loses Hamilton to Ferrari

Lewis Hamilton at the Miami Grand Prix 2023
Jiri Krenek/Mercedes / Mercedes

Hamilton walks! Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton shook up the Formula 1 world on February 1, 2024, with the news that he signed to drive for Ferrari’s F1 team for the 2025 season. The seven-time F1 world champion driver will finish 12 years with the Mercedes team one year before new F1 rules and regulations for race cars take effect.

Scuderia Ferrari broke the news on X in a team statement, “Scuderia Ferrari is pleased to announce that Lewis Hamilton will be joining the team in 2025 on a multi-year contract.”

FIA F1 headshot of Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton.

Why Lewis Hamilton moving from Mercedes to Ferrari is such a big deal

Two story arcs boost the significance of Hamilton’s change from Mercedes to Ferrari: F1 championships and F1 factory rivalries. Hamilton dearly wants to win at least one more F1 championship. Switching to Ferrari indicates Hamilton thinks his chances to win another F1 championship are better with Ferrari than with Mercedes.

It could also be an indication Hamilton sees the impending rule changes as detrimental to his Mercedes team. F1 is a small community, and it’s possible Hamilton liked what the future held for Ferrari more than he liked what he was seeing in his own garage at Mercedes. Whether the grass really is greener remains to be seen.

We also think Hamilton may be enamored with the prospect of joining Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc to create a tandem more capable of challenging team Red Bull’s potent Verstappen and Perez. This could begin the era of the F1 “superteam.”

Lewis Hamilton (44) driving for Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team during The Australian Formula One Grand Prix Race on April 02, 2023, at The Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit in Albert Park, Australia.
davidhewison / Adobe Stock

Is Lewis Hamilton the best F1 driver in history?

Hamilton, who turned 39 years old on January 7, is one of the winningest F1 drivers ever. He is tied with Michael Schumacher for the most F1 driver championships. Schumacher retired at the end of the 2006 F1 season, the year before Hamilton began his professional F1 career with McLaren in 2007.

Hamilton won his first F1 driver championship in 2008, his second season. From 2014 to 2020, Hamilton was the F1 champion each year except in 2016, when Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg was the champion. Hamilton was in second place, finishing closely behind Rosberg in championship point.

“Lewis, the car is bad, we know, please drive it.”

In addition to his F1 championships, Hamilton has the most F1 wins (103), the most Grand Prix podiums (197), and the most pole positions (104). Schumacher still holds the record for the most fastest laps during a Grand Prix (77), but Hamilton, in second place with 65 fastest laps, is still racing.

Hamilton is now the second-oldest F1 driver under contract. Aston Martin’s 43-year-old driver, Fernando Alonzo, is the oldest active F1 driver. If Hamilton wins one more world championship, he will be the uncontested best F1 driver in history.

Lewis Hamilton 2023 Miami Grand Prix
Sam Bloxham/Mercedes / Mercedes

Hamilton’s move from Mercedes to Ferrari

Hamilton’s move to Ferrari will be in a pivotal year when all F1 teams will begin working on new, lighter, and more aerodynamic cars for the 2026 season. The switch signals his belief that Ferrari will give him a better chance than Mercedes to regain his former dominance of the elite motorsport.

McLaren F1 cars used Mercedes engines while Hamilton drove for them. Therefore, Hamilton has driven race cars with Mercedes engines for his F1 career. Hamilton won his seventh F1 championship in 2020 before F1 regulations for aerodynamic downforce rules changed. Hamilton did not finish any Grand Prix race in first position in 2022 or 2023.

Hamilton’s frustration with the Mercedes F1 cars was often apparent from in-car radio conversation transmissions in the 2023 season. During the 2023 Austrian Grand Prix, when Hamilton complained on the in-car radio about the car’s handling, the Mercedes team principal’s message replied, “Lewis, the car is bad, we know, please drive it.”

According to reports, Hamilton has always enjoyed good relationships with race team management. One of those managers before F1 was Fred Vasseur, the current Scuderia Ferrari team principal. From 2001 to 2006, before his shift to McLaren and F1, Hamilton drove for Vasseur’s F3 and F2 (previously GP2) teams.

Vasseur and Hamilton have remained friends and talk weekly since Hamilton’s move to F1. Vasseur reportedly invited Hamilton to drive for Ferrari previously, but Hamilton turned him down. Until now.

Bruce Brown
Digital Trends Contributing Editor Bruce Brown is a member of the Smart Homes and Cars teams. He also writes technology news…
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