In February, as the ten teams were making final preparations for the start of the 2024 Formula One World Championship, news broke that rocked motorsport to its core. Seven-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton, who in 2023 signed a two-year, £100 million contract extension with Mercedes-AMG Petronas, had agreed to join Scuderia Ferrari from the 2025 season. The shock move combines arguably Formula One’s greatest-ever driver with the sport’s most famous team, but is the Hamilton-Ferrari partnership one made in heaven, or is it destined to fall flat?

Hamilton burst onto the Formula One scene in 2007 as a fresh-faced 22-year-old, taking the sport by storm. The Englishman arrived with a glowing reputation from his karting, Formula Renault, Formula Three, and GP2 days, but nothing prepared Formula One for how talented Hamilton was. After finishing third on his debut at the Australian Grand Prix, Hamilton finished second on the podium in Malaysia, Bahrain, Spain, and Monaco. 

The first of 103 Grand Prix victories

In only his sixth Formula One race, Hamilton took the chequered flag in Canada and won back-to-back races when he triumphed in the United States. Hamilton won two more Grand Prix, finished on the podium three more times before the end of the season, and finished second in the World Driver’s Championship. Before the start of the 2008 Formula One season, motorsport fans flocked to place an F1 bet online because they believed Hamilton would become world champion. Those predictions came true, with Hamilton winning five races on his way to winning his first world title

Unfortunately for Hamilton, the McLaren team fell behind the curve compared to their rivals, particularly regarding the reliability of the Mercedes-Benz-powered car. Issues forced Hamilton’s retirement in 13 races between 2009-12, including five in 2012 alone. Despite having a sub-standard car compared to his rivals, Hamilton still won 10 races and enjoyed 15 podium finishes.

Hamilton is best known for racing with Mercedes-AMG Petronas, the team he joined in 2013. Although Hamilton won six more world titles between 2014 and 2020 (he also finished as runner-up in 2016 and 2021), the Mercedes is no longer competitive, as is evident by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen winning three consecutive World Driver’s Championships with relative ease.

Ferrari fans dreaming of the old Ferrari team

ferrari 01Ferrari is the only team to have competed in every Grand Prix since Formula One was created. Unsurprisingly, the Italian giants hold several records, including Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championships, most wins, podium finishes, pole positions, and fastest laps. 

Nine drivers have won the World Drivers’ Championship while driving for Ferrari, including the legendary Michael Schumacher, who won five of his seven titles in consecutive seasons between 2000 and 2004, as Ferrari dominated the sport.

However, Ferrari has not seen one of its drivers become world champion since Finland’s Kimi Raikkonen prevented Hamilton from becoming world champion during his debut season in 2007, some 17 years ago. Furthermore, Ferrari hasn’t won the coveted Constructors’ Championship since 2008. Like every other team not called Oracle Red Bull Racing, Ferrari has struggled recently.

Some green shoots have been among the barren Ferrari landscape over the past couple of Formula One seasons. In 2023, Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jr. qualified in pole position in seven of the 21 Grand Prix, showing the car can keep tabs on the sport’s elite, at least in qualifying. However, neither Leclerc nor Sainz set the fastest lap in any of the 2023 Grand Prix, and only Sainz managed to win a race; Sainz’s victory in Singapore was the only Grand Prix a Red Bull driver did not win.

Progress looks to have been made to the Ferrari during the 2024 season. Leclerc set the fastest lap in two of the four completed Grand Prix, while Sainz and Leclerc finished one-two in Australia in late March, the first Ferrari one-two since the opening race of the 2022 season.

Could Hamilton and Ferrari be the perfect match?

Had the controversial ruling at the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix not happened, and Hamilton had won the race and his record-breaking eighth world title as expected, we would unlikely be discussing the British star moving to Ferrari. There is every chance Hamilton would have seen out his contract with Mercedes before stepping away with eight world championships under his belt.

Everyone connected to Formula One knows Hamilton does not want to retire until he has won an eighth world title; he is currently tied on seven with Schumacher. Whether or not Hamilton can achieve his goal depends on how competitive Ferrari can make his car and whether or not Father Time remains kind to the seven-time champion.

Hamilton turned 39 in January, making him the second-oldest driver this season; Fernando Alonso will be 42 by the time the 2024 season ends. When Hamilton won his seventh world title in 2020, he was 35 years and 313 days old, making him the ninth-oldest world champion ever. Former champions Damon Hill (36), Alain Prost (38), and Nigel Mansell (39) each won the Drivers’ Championship when older than Hamilton, but all three were from an era when the cars and their performance were unrecognizable from today’s machines.

Few people would bet against Hamilton becoming world champion again if it was based on determination and talent alone, despite him not winning a Grand Prix since December 2021. The British superstar has proven time and time again that he knows how to eek every last drop of performance from a car.

Perhaps, then, this relationship could hinge on whether or not Ferrari manages to build a car that is fast, reliable, and capable of mounting a serious title challenge. The problem is that Red Bull is so far ahead of the competition that it seems unfair to the other nine teams. Ferrari has to try to close the gap on Red Bull right now and keep up with any advancements Red Bull makes in the coming couple of seasons. Whether Ferrari can do that and help Hamilton fulfill his dreams remains to be seen, but the 2025 Formula One season will be more interesting than we thought it would be a couple of months ago.

 


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