Lewis Hamilton heading to Ferrari for 2025 is the biggest Formula 1 driver market move since Hamilton himself opted to leave McLaren and move to Mercedes. That decision came back in late 2012, ahead of his Formula 1 debut with the Silver Arrows for the following year.
The decision to move to Ferrari has a longer wait time but tops the previous one, and both of Sebastian Vettel‘s moves into and out of the Scuderia in the decade and change since.
Its only rival in shock factor is Fernando Alonso‘s Alpine-to-Aston Martin transfer. And apologies to Tazio Nuvolari and Auto Union fans, but there’s a case to be made this is the biggest motorsport driver switch ever.
Ferrari remains F1’s most evocative and successful squad, and Hamilton transcends the championship’s driver fame stakes. That’s especially enshrined with current dominator Max Verstappen keen to shun the wider limelight.
In this news, the parallels with Hamilton’s McLaren exit are obvious. Then, the V6 turbo hybrid era was set to arrive one year into his Mercedes tenure, and all that success that eventually brought.
Although the massive rules reset of 2022 still feels so fresh, the 2026 regulation changes – especially with the added importance on electrical power and sustainable fuel in engines – are no longer over the horizon now 2024 has begun.
But, while a positive and exciting new chapter for F1 overall and clearly to Hamilton himself, the risks of a move are different for him this time around.
Back in 2012, the question was whether an untested and even openly doubted Mercedes works squad could ever provide Hamilton with title-winning machinery as he had at McLaren.
F1 has long known how that would work out, with the inevitability that Hamilton would have to leave his junior driver nest at McLaren often forgotten in the story of that first switch.
Hamilton will replace Sainz at Ferrari in 2025
Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images
In joining Mercedes for 2013, Hamilton had no way of being sure he’d get to add to his 2008 world title and 21-race victory haul, just as his prime years were unfolding. But there was a huge upside possible in that looming rules change.
In 2024, Hamilton is not long on from explaining the “raw excitement” of starting that Mercedes building project. That was something where he says both parties “expected it to be shite to start off with because they hadn’t had a lot of success”.
This call should therefore initially be…