Before the start of pre-season testing, seven-time Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton announced he’d agreed terms to switch teams from Mercedes to Ferrari in 2025, gambling on a switch even before seeing the latest 2024 signs of progress from each garage.

The move was confirmed by all parties at the beginning of February and goes down as one of the most surprising driver switches in the sport’s history.

The British driver and Mercedes have been a constant super force in motor racing since he joined the team back in 2013, claiming six of his seven titles in this time.

Meanwhile, Ferrari have continued to struggle and have not won a Constructors’ World Championship since 2008, incidentally the same season in which Hamilton won his first drivers World Championship with McLaren.

Kimi Raikkonen was the last Ferrari driver to be named world champion back in 2007. Even when looking at recent history, Mercedes have proven to be the stronger team than Ferrari, with the German outfit finishing above the Italians in the 2023 season, to rank as the closest rival to the dominant Red Bull garage.

Fans have been left highly frustrated by Ferrari in recent years thanks to the lack of team cohesion and failed race strategies which has seen them serve as their own biggest obstacle for progress and grand prix victories.

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Hamilton will continue to race for Mercedes in the upcoming 2024 campaign, taking his time with the team to an impressive 12 seasons. The Hamilton-Toto Wolff/Mercedes partnership has been such a constant in Formula 1 that few believed such a team switch was possible, despite previous negotiations away from Mercedes.

Hamilton has enjoyed unparalleled success with the team, with these six Mercedes-linked championships tying him to Ferrari legend Michael Schumacher as the most decorated Formula 1 world champion in history.

On the surface, Hamilton’s switch from familiar surroundings to the inconsistent Italian garage appears to be a big gamble, but in some ways, this is nothing new or unique in the Briton’s career.

The reality of the situation is that he will turn 40 before the start of the 2025 season, and though Hamilton and Fernando Alonso’s strong form in 2023 proves that age is somewhat irrelevant to the F1 race pace, he is entering the twilight years of his career.

The Briton has fewer chances now to overtake Schumacher and become the outright most decorated driver in the sport’s history. That elusive eighth title is surely what fuels his ambition, especially after the dramatic 2021 World Championship where he and Mercedes felt a massive sense of injustice in missing out on the title on the last lap of the final grand prix of the season.

Since this agonizing loss, Hamilton and Mercedes have drifted further away from the top of the grid, whilst Max Verstappen and Red Bull have cemented their positions as the far-superior racing team in the sport, having designed an almost unbeatable car under the new rules introduced in 2022.

The task for Hamilton claiming an eighth world title therefore looks harder than ever before as he must break this Red Bull and Dutch driver control. Mercedes’ decision to stick with their initial car redesign concept for each of the past two seasons has proven to be a poor one, and have only now abandoned these designs.

This naivety and overall poor performance of the team in the last two seasons has seemingly not filled Hamilton with confidence that they can claw back Red Bull’s advantage any time soon. Believing this, Hamilton has seen little other choice than to gamble with a new team.

When you look at team options away from Mercedes, Ferrari was the only viable option for Hamilton, with no other team offering him a realistic chance of defeating Verstappen at present, excluding Red Bull.

The idea of Red Bull, despite the inconsistencies of Sergio Perez in the number two seat, offering Hamilton a seat seemed highly improbable. Why would they need a serious challenger to threaten Verstappen, where a battle of egos could shift their working balance and require them to move away from their fixed number one driver model?

A return to McLaren perhaps could have tempted Hamilton back to the Woking Garage, having already won a championship with the team and McLaren showing huge signs of progress in 2023.

McLaren employees and fans come into the 2024 season full of optimism that they have re-emerged as an elite team capable of winning races consistently. This reunion, however, was perhaps even more improbable than a move to Red Bull, given their fixed driver line-ups, with Lando Norris contracted to 2027 and Oscar Piastri until 2026.

The only other team which has competed at the front of the grid in recent seasons would have been Aston Martin but this would have been a much bigger gamble than Ferrari. Much like with McLaren, their seats are also filled, with Alonso the main driver and Lance Stroll comfortably backed by the team owned by his father.

Ferrari are the iconic team in Formula 1 and now Hamilton gets the chance to race in the famous all-red livery and emulate historic legends of the sport such as Juan Manuel Fangio, Niki Lauda, and Alain Prost. He will become the first British Ferrari driver since Eddie Irvine in the year 2000.

The prancing horse despite their issues in recent seasons, have shown themselves to be a credible threat, perhaps the most serious threat to Red Bull, with incumbent driver, Carlos Sainz claiming the only non-Red Bull grand prix victory in 2023 (Singapore).

The timing of the move suggests that Hamilton is targeting the 2026 campaign as his big chance for world title number eight. Much like he did when he moved from McLaren to Mercedes in 2013, Hamilton is joining a new outfit before the F1 rules and regulations overhaul come into effect in 2026, where feasibly, Red Bull are most likely to potentially lose their advantage, just as Mercedes did in 2022.

This offers him a chance to get accustomed to his new surroundings and build stronger relationships with his garage and share ideas on how they can produce a competitive machine for 2026.

Hamilton’s move has been the talk of pre-season and has kick-started the period known as ‘silly season’ in Formula 1. The 2024 campaign is the first in the championship’s history where all competing teams announced an unchanged driver line-up from the previous campaign.

Hamilton’s Ferrari announcement has ensured this will not be the case in 2025. His move will now have a knock-on effect for the rest of the field, with Mercedes in the market for a partner to George Russell, which in turn could free up seats elsewhere.

It is hard to see the 2024 season being anything different from what fans have seen from the last two campaigns, with Verstappen and Red Bull seemingly destined for another shared World Championship.

It would therefore seem that 2024 will be a drawn-out farewell between Hamilton and Mercedes, as the German team looks to advance its car and make the Briton regret his choice for change. The legal issues facing Red Bull team principal Christian Horner have cast some fresh doubt and highlighted potential weaknesses in the Red Bull garage for this year.

The outcome of his ongoing behavioral investigation could yet hold serious ramifications for the competitiveness of the new, upcoming season, where the likes of Hamilton and his two connected teams will be keen to bridge the gap to the defending champions as soon as they can.

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