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Lewis Hamilton

Hamilton signing a 'no-brainer' despite 'harsh' Sainz axe - Vasseur

Ferrari's decision to sign Lewis Hamilton caught everyone off guard. Team boss Fred Vasseur felt he had no choice.

Hamilton Imola
To news overview © XPBimages

Fred Vasseur has declared it "a no-brainer" to sign Lewis Hamilton despite having to make his toughest decision since becoming team principal of Ferrari last year.

Vasseur pulled off a coup in pre-season when he took advantage of an escape clause in Hamilton's Mercedes contract the seven-time F1 champion only signed last year to lure him to the Scuderia.

Hamilton recently stated that if it were not for Vasseur being in charge, given their longstanding relationship dating back to the Briton's junior formula success, then it is highly unlikely he would have ended what will be a 12-partnership with Mercedes.

Vasseur knew, however, that to make way for Hamilton, he had to release Sainz, despite realising an ambition of working with the Spaniard, and after his heroics of last year, notably being the only non-Red Bull driver to score a victory, and the podium on home soil at Monza where he went wheel-to-wheel with team-mate Charles Leclerc to secure third.

Reflecting on the call he had to make, speaking to this writer in an interview for The New York Times, Vasseur said: "It was not easy because I have huge respect for Carlos.

"When I joined, I said that I tried to have Carlos with me in the junior series, and then at Renault, and then at Sauber, and it was never possible, so I was pleased to have Carlos with me when I joined Ferrari.

"I'm perfectly aware of the job he did last year. First, he brought us the podium in Monza, then the win [in Singapore] but he was also the artisan of our recovery after the summer break.

"He came back in Zandvoort [the Dutch Grand Prix] and he did a very good job, pushing the team a lot, and this helped massively for Charles to recover and to do a charge. Let me make clear, it was not one pushing the other. It was a positive collaboration."

'I hope that he will find something'

Sainz has since scored another victory, in Australia, and was on the podium in Bahrain and Japan. But for being forced to pull out of the race in Saudi Arabia to undergo appendix surgery, he would arguably be a lot closer than the current 15-point gap to Leclerc going into the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

Vasseur knew, however, he could not let the opportunity to sign Hamilton slip through his fingers.

"For the team, being able to have Lewis on board was a no-brainer for tons of reasons, and I had to take a decision," said Vasseur.

"The decision was harsh, but the way we managed it with Carlos, and the people around Carlos, was the best that we could because it wasn't easy.

"I remember perfectly that we closed the discussion by saying, 'It is like it is. Let's push until the last corner of the last lap and do a mega-good season'.

"His reaction has been a good one, rather than him saying, 'Ah, you f***ing b*****d', blah blah blah. Instead, he has created a positive dynamic and I'm full of respect for this."

Explaining why an announcement over Hamilton was made before pre-season testing, Vasseur added: "The fact we announced it very early surprised people.

"With Lewis we could have waited for July but I think it was also out of respect for Carlos that we wanted to give him the maximum chance to find a good opportunity and so on. I hope that he will find something."

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