Lewis Hamilton leaves Mercedes, the team where he won six of his seven Formula 1 world titles. At Ferrari, the Brit hopes to repeat that performance one more time and become the most successful F1 driver ever.
At Mercedes, Hamilton became one of the greatest drivers of all time: he holds the record for most grand prix wins (103). Yet there is now the switch to competitor Ferrari and it seems to have to do with one man: Max Verstappen. In 2020, Hamilton won his sixth title in seven years – his seventh in total – and an eighth seemed only a matter of time. But in 2021, Verstappen broke Hamilton’s hegemony. The last three world titles went to the Dutchman from Red Bull.
And so Hamilton still has to share the record for the most world titles in F1 with the German Michael Schumacher, who also became world champion seven times. It is precisely at the Ferrari where Schumacher won those titles that Hamilton will now try to win the competition with Verstappen again in order to become the most successful driver of all time.
Magic red overalls
Verstappen and Hamilton do not seem to like each other: the Briton repeatedly criticized Verstappen’s “aggressive” driving style in the media. The fact that Verstappen did not want to kneel before a grand prix in Austria in 2020 in an action against racism would not have helped either.
In his frustration with Verstappen’s dominance, Hamilton increasingly focused his criticism on his own Mercedes. At the start of last season he said the design team had not acted on his recommendations. He blames his team’s strategy for not winning the Grand Prix in Singapore in September.
There were more incidents that, looking back, make the break with Mercedes less surprising. His move at age 39 is late, but not unusual. Other top drivers such as Sebastian Vettel and Alain Prost also switched to the Scuderia Ferrarithe oldest and most successful team ever.
Whether Hamilton will improve financially depends on his performance. He earns more than 50 million euros a year at Mercedes, according to Ferrari Corriere della Serra earn around 37 million euros in basic salary. With performance bonuses, his annual income could exceed his salary at Mercedes.
Hamilton will still drive for Mercedes next season. Yet the question is to what extent Mercedes and Hamilton continue to trust each other. The Brit is highly dependent on his team for his performance, and his team is in turn dependent on Hamilton’s input. The driver normally participates in technical discussions, in which he learns a lot about the technical developments and tactics of the team that will be one of his main competitors next year.
In addition, Mercedes must look for a successor and a new banner. Alexander Albon, who now races for Williams, is mentioned a lot. Carlos Sainz, now the figurehead of Ferrari, already knows that he has to leave due to the arrival of Hamilton. He’ll probably go to Audi. This means that the interests of the drivers may conflict in the upcoming season. That will probably only play into the hands of the sole ruler Verstappen.