Kurt Verlin
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Lewis Hamilton Joins Ferrari for $100M

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Lewis Hamilton laughing
Photo: Jen Ross via CC

Lewis Hamilton, seven-time Formula 1 world champion, will drive for Ferrari from 2025 onward. He signed a multi-year deal with the team that will see him earn $100 million per season.

The news comes as a surprise because Hamilton, 39, was widely thought to be ending his career at Mercedes, the team that supplied him the cars with which he earned six of his seven titles, and many records besides. Nobody has raced for a single team more than Hamilton has for Mercedes, and during their time together, Hamilton has become one of the sport’s most successful and marketable drivers.

Last summer, he signed a two-year contract extension to stay with Mercedes until the end of 2025. This was not unusual. F1 is planning major regulations changes for 2025 and 2026, which led to many drivers making sure their options would be open around that time. But Hamilton’s commitment to Ferrari prior to the start of the 2024 season is quite early.

Why would Hamilton leave Mercedes?

The prevailing belief is that he has lost faith in Mercedes. Over the last two seasons, he has gone winless for the first time in his career, while Red Bull and Max Verstappen sweep all the trophies. He also expressed frustration that the team didn’t listen to his input about the car’s fundamental design until it was too late to get meaningful results.

It’s only Hamilton’s second team move in F1, but the first was even more shocking. In 2012, he announced he would leave McLaren for Mercedes, a decision that, at the time, seemed bewildering and was met with criticism and derision across the media. McLaren was a top team, and Mercedes an unproven new outfit. Looking back at his 103 wins and 104 pole positions, it’s probably the best F1 career move anyone’s ever done.

The Ferrari effect

This transfer to Ferrari, while surprising, isn’t nearly as controversial. In fact, given the number of top drivers that have driven for the Italian Scuderia, it seems like an obvious pairing. Such an obvious one that Hamilton has been quizzed every year about a potential Ferrari drive since his 2007 debut. Yet he never expressed a genuine interest in driving the red car, and this may be what has made this latest announcement raise all the eyebrows.

Many drivers have felt the lure of the sport’s most historic and most successful team. Hamilton’s future Ferrari teammate, Charles Leclerc, was brought up through Ferrari’s young driver academy, and has many times spoken of his dream to drive for them. He’s already been there for six years, and has signed a contract that will purportedly keep him at Ferrari for at least another three, and perhaps even five.

F1 bucket list

Four-time champion Sebastian Vettel, and once rival to Hamilton, left the team with whom he’d won all his titles to try emulating his hero Michael Schumacher, and win a championship with Ferrari. He once said that “Everybody is a Ferrari fan! Even if they’re not, they are a Ferrari fan!” There’s an adage that the three greatest glories in F1 are winning one’s home race, winning Monaco, and winning at Monza for Ferrari.

On paper, Hamilton has done more than any other driver in the sport, and more than most drivers ever dream to achieve. But the last of those three glories remains available. For all his denials of interest in the team, and regulation changes notwithstanding, this move could simply be a way for Hamilton to cross off a common F1 bucket list item at the twilight of his career. And we’ve got to think the $100 million salary also helps — not that he was ever poorly paid before.