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Lewis Hamilton

Hamilton's shock Ferrari move mimics the origins of his Mercedes story

As Lewis Hamilton looks to be on the verge of a bombshell move to Ferrari, much of this echos his move away from childhood team McLaren when he joined Mercedes.

Leclerc Hamilton
To news overview © XPBimages

When Lewis Hamilton said he would be leaving McLaren to join Mercedes during the 2012 season, the general consensus was that he was making a big mistake.

McLaren, with all of their resources and proven history in modern F1, was the only team that could challenge Red Bull at that moment in time for World Championships.

Mercedes failed to capitalise on the momentum from the underdog story of Brawn in 2009 and was left picking up the scraps while Ferrari, Red Bull and McLaren took the silverware.

Behind the scenes there was something much bigger going on. F1 was entering arguably its biggest technical regulation overhaul in its history with the switch to hybrid engines, and Mercedes was preparing its world domination.

Then Team Principal Ross Brawn had fought behind the scenes in Mercedes favour, while top level management brought in Toto Wolff alongside Niki Lauda as their leaders. All that was missing was a star driver.

Michael Schumacher could not give a definitive answer over whether he would carry on beyond the end of 2012, which is where Mercedes moved in on securing Hamilton. The seven-time World Champion would later announce his second retirement from F1, while Hamilton was confirmed as his replacement alongside German Nico Rosberg.

McLaren enters period of discontent

By contrast, McLaren was entering a period of discontent. All of their technical prowess that had led them to success in the early 00s was starting to stagnate, with their wind tunnel and facilities also becoming outdated against Red Bull and Ferrari.

This was evidenced later when the team made the switch to Honda power and produced a car that had constant teething problems, not least due to the reliability issues that plagued the Japanese engine-maker.

It would take the team another eight and a half years before they won another race, with a completely different management structure and team compared to what it was when Hamilton left.

The same could be said for Mercedes current direction, as they look to turn around their form after making a gamble on a car concept for the 2022 regulations. James Allison has been drafted in to replace Mike Elliott in the overall technical leadership, but instant success is not guaranteed.

Just like in 2012, Hamilton wants results now while he is at the peak of his career and a move to Ferrari could inject the last bit of life into his glittering career.

			© Morio
	© Morio

The allure of Ferrari

Hamilton and Rosberg's rivalry went back to their karting days so it was the ideal pairing for Mercedes, who was looking to create a vintage teammate battle for the title.

The 2013 season was a way for Hamilton to get used to Mercedes' way of working, having spent six years at McLaren and most of his junior career on their radar.

This switch to Ferrari echoes a similar thought process. It's much more of a culture shock to switch to an Italian team than another British outfit, not least when Hamilton does not speak the native language.

Hamilton does have Team Principal Frederic Vasseur on his side, having won both the Formula Three and GP2 (now F2) championships with his ART team in 2005 and 2006 before making his F1 debut in 2007.

Vasseur has previously made it clear how frequently he talks to him on a regular basis when speaking to Italy's Gazzetta dello Sport last year: "I talk to him at every GP, he raced for me 20 years ago and we are still close.

"Clearly, if they [the media] see us together in the paddock, there's a lot of fuss, but the relationship has remained."

The allure of Ferrari makes it a dream move for any driver. Hamilton will be playing out his swan song in F1 alongside Charles Leclerc, whom he rates highly.

When Leclerc suffered a heartbreaking engine problem on the way to a potential first win with Ferrari during the 2019 Bahrain Grand Prix, Hamilton consoled him in the cool down room by saying he had “a great future in front of you."

Now it seems that future will be shared between the two of them, and one of the most successful team and driver partnerships of all time.

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