What is driving Hamilton’s late Ferrari switch 

Lewis Hamilton recently shocked the world of F1 by announcing his switch to Ferrari in 2025.

With team Mercedes clearly falling behind rivals Red Bull in more recent years, there was still quite a fair bit of surprise recently when Lewis Hamilton announced that he would be leaving Mercedes at the end of the 2024 race season, and would instead make the switch to Ferrari in 2025. Despite the switch, Hamilton and Ferrari will still be the underdogs in the F1 odds but he’ll be hoping a fresh start can change his luck.

The 39 year old British racing driver made his name after joining the McLaren Young Driver Programme back in 1998, taking his place on their Formula 1 race team from 2007 to 2012, where he not only became the first black driver to race in the series, after seriously impressing, he became the then youngest ever Formula 1 World Champion. In 2013 he made the switch to Mercedes just as they were about to hit their peak with the change of regulations in 2014, mandating the use of turbo hybrid engines and they had really perfected their car in a way no one saw coming.

Hamilton, as history tells us, then went on to win his next six world titles in his time with them. Having signed a new two year deal with them last summer, for whatever reason (and many would speculate it is based on continued performance issues with the Mercedes drive continuing to fall behind its Red Bull counterpart, not least the more recent bouncing and porpoising problems they experienced) it is now reported that he has activated his break clause having decided to move on.

For those who believe the decision has been ‘car performance led’, there will be many wondering if Ferrari have a strong feeling they are soon to really catch up in a competitive manner, and Hamilton has been swayed by a sense that he might be able to again time a career step to perfection and really sign out his professional racing career with maybe an extra title or two.

Speaking publicly for the first time since the decision and move was announced, Hamilton simply said.

“It’s been a crazy few days filled with a whole range of emotions. The time has come for me to start a new chapter in my life and I will be joining Scuderia Ferrari in 2025. I feel incredibly fortunate, after achieving things with Mercedes that I could only have dreamed of as a kid, that I now have the chance to fulfil another childhood dream. Driving in Ferrari red.”

After tasting such massive success with Mercedes and having had become such a well known name due to his success on the grid, not least also his environmental and social activism, Hamilton may truly simply be led here by the idea of driving for a brand that is so iconic and ingrained in the history of the sport. It may genuinely be that he just wants to experience and taste a Ferrari for a couple of years as he moves towards hanging up his helmet and gloves.

Or it could be, he knows or at least feels that he knows something, that we simply do not know, and as a total punt, he is basically allowing himself the opportunity to add the iconic Ferrari name to his CV, but with the hopes it quickly turns into something more as whatever the initial motivation for the switch, he will undoubtedly want to go out having truly cemented himself in the history and annals of the sport.

The speed of the decision, and not least the current timing, will certainly keep commentators occupied with theories, speculation and rumours. After all, whatever might now be said, spun on the public relations routine, or discussed – the elephant in the room will always be the contract break. What changed in a simple 12 month period, or alternatively, upon signing his new two year deal, was it Hamilton who insisted on the break clause, and if so, what was his actual thinking at the time.

Whilst Hamilton will definitely keep saying his full focus is on Mercedes and the current 2024 campaign, given everything that has now transpired, journalists across the planet will be looking for one slip up, one wrong decision that costs points, and the media will be ready to jump on him at the drop of a hat.

He has actually put himself in a really strange position here, as on face value it is a complete gamble for a whole variety of reasons, and although financial recompense and contract security will come into – let us face it, with Hamilton’s success and wealth (and no doubt other business interests and investments) he could retire right now and continue to live a life that basically 90% could only ever dream about.

And that loops you back to what is driving his decision. Just a taste of Ferrari, a safer knowledge he could maybe end his career by going out on a truer high, because it absolutely cannot be money driven whichever way you choose to look at it.

It will certainly be interesting to see how it plays out over the next few years.