JONATHAN McEVOY: Should he stay or should he go? Lewis Hamilton needs to be sitting in a Championship-worthy car which Ferrari are capable of supplying… but loyalty could yet see him stay put at Mercedes ahead of huge decision
- Formula One superstar Lewis Hamilton could be set for a move to Ferrari
- There are plenty of reasons for Hamilton to pursue a move to the Italian garage
- But does he really want to put his loyalty to Mercedes on the line by swapping?
Mail Sport on Monday revealed Ferrari’s interest in signing Lewis Hamilton, a partnership that if it came to fruition would combine the world’s most famous driver with the world’s most famous team.
As it stands, the seven-time world champion is in negotiations with Mercedes, where he has won six of his titles during a period of stupendous dominance.
The latest round of talks are dragging on, and an extension of his £40million-a-year contract beyond the end of this season is not a certainty until the ink is dry.
JONATHAN McEVOY looks at the factors that could influence Hamilton’s decision as he ponders what is likely to be his final contract.
Ferrari are set to offer Lewis Hamilton £40million deal to race in red for them next season
Hamilton has long insisted that gratitude for what Mercedes have given him — a car of his dreams for so long — means a lot to him. As do his relationships within the team, especially with boss Toto Wolff. They are aligned in many ways. And the team have long danced to the Hamilton beat.
Going elsewhere would be a wrench and a risk. But a hard-wired winner such as Hamilton is not given to sentimentality over tough career decisions.
Leaving McLaren, where he was sponsored by Ron Dennis, to join Mercedes for the start of the 2013 season illustrates that point. He found the fresh air rejuvenating.
Moving to Ferrari would see Hamilton’s relationship with Mercedes chief Toto Wolff (pictured) come to an end
Ferrari are also the most successful competitors in Formula One history and very few drivers can resist the allure. Indeed, Hamilton owns several of the marque’s road cars, some from the forecourt of their Beverly Hills dealership.
Several Brits have prospered at Maranello. Among them, Mike Hawthorn became Britain’s first world champion; John Surtees made himself the only man to win world titles on two and four wheels; Nigel Mansell was hailed as Il Leone by the adoring tifosi.
Hamilton has been a pantomime villain when booed on the Monza podium when he produced magical feats to thwart the Ferrari favourites, but there is no reason he would not be a cult hero if given the chance.
Hamilton (right) may not be able to turn down the glamour that a move to Ferrari brings with it
This is the nub of it. Hamilton will be 39 when next season begins. Although three years Fernando Alonso’s junior, he clearly needs to be sitting in a championship-worthy car soon if he is to secure title No 8.
Red Bull and Aston Martin, the leading and distant second-best teams respectively, have no availability. So which of the next best pair hold better prospects of imminent revival — Mercedes or Ferrari? It’s a tough one.
Ferrari are perennial under-achievers, without a drivers’ or constructors’ title since 2008. They are always chopping and changing personnel.
Hamilton needs to be sitting in a championship-winning car and Ferrari could deliver that
Mattia Binotto, a fine engineer miscast as team principal, was axed last year after a series of hiccups, despite producing a fast car.
Mercedes are serial winners but have leaked key staff in recent years. It has taken them an age to find the key to unlock their car’s potential since new regulations came in last season.
In fact, they still have not found the solution, though a massive upgrade package is coming into play in Monaco this weekend. The success or otherwise of that over the coming races will be instructive.
Hamilton’s hero Ayrton Senna was down to go to Ferrari before his death in 1994. Might the Brazilian’s intention act as a blueprint?
Moving to Ferrari would also offer the chance to win a world championship at a third team. Nobody has notched titles at more than two, with the exception of the great Argentine of the 1950s, Juan Manuel Fangio, who accomplished the feat at four.
Hamilton’s hero Ayrton Senna (pictured) was set to go to Ferrari before his tragic death in 1994
No Formula One team are riven with politics like Ferrari. Their exalted position in the Italian psyche feeds the infighting.
Hamilton at least has an ally in John Elkann, Ferrari’s executive chairman, who controls the multi-industry dynasty of the Agnelli family. Lewis and Elkann hug each other when they meet.
Ferrari may be better off sticking with their current duo of Charles Leclerc (left) and Carlos Sainz (right)
Affable new team principal Fred Vasseur is effectively a ‘racing manager’ rather than the hirer and firer. The system has spat out his predecessors before.
Acclimatising to this febrile environment, with Hamilton’s potential team-mate Charles Leclerc already ensconced, is a potential headache.
PS Not that signing Hamilton would come without risk for Ferrari. He is getting older. At what rate will his skills diminish?
Might the Scuderia not be better sticking with their existing blend of youth, namely Leclerc, 25, and Carlos Sainz, 28? Or even trying to poach the other Mercedes man, George Russell? Just a thought.
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