One year on from taking the reins at Ferrari, Frederic Vasseur appears to have delivered an enormous coup for the team.
Signing Lewis Hamilton promises to not only bring his enormous talent and experience to the Scuderia, but simultaneously weaken one of their top rivals.
Ferrari’s driving line-up was hardly a weakness to begin with. But the speed and youth of Charles Leclerc plus the unmatched success and experience of Hamilton gives them a formidable duo.
Hamilton was rumoured to be a target for Ferrari for years. But despite the obvious mutual attraction between F1’s most popular and successful team and Formula 1’s most popular and successful driver, for many years Ferrari never seemed likely to lure Hamilton away from his team.
When he jumped ship from McLaren to Mercedes in 2012, Ferrari’s leading driver was Fernando Alonso. The disastrous consequences of their partnership at McLaren in Hamilton’s first season made that an obvious non-starter.
Mercedes dominated the first years of the V6 hybrid turbo era and Hamilton began amassing titles rapidly, leaving him little incentive to leave. By the late 2010s Ferrari was a much more competitive proposition, but already had two world champions in its line-up in the shape of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen.
By the end of the decade, with Vettel starting to look like a spent force, the time might have been right for Ferrari to swoop for Hamilton. But Mercedes were still riding high, Leclerc had emerged as Ferrari’s new star – and Hamilton’s publicly-stated views on the team offered little indication he was considering a move there.
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The Covid-affected 2020 season was also the year Hamilton took up the cause of pushing F1 to increase its diversity and inclusion. Mercedes repainted its car black and launched its Accelerate 25 programme.
While Hamilton praised Mercedes’ “amazing” efforts to draw more staff from under-represented backgrounds, he took aim at Ferrari. “Formula 1 has come forward and said that they are supporting ‘end racism’ and it’s amazing to see Mercedes doing the same thing,” he said. “If you look at Ferrari who have thousands of people working with them, I’ve heard no word of Ferrari saying that they hold themselves accountable and this is what they’re going to do for their future.”
Ferrari chairman John Elkann weighed his words with…