HomeSportsLewis Hamilton to join Ferrari: How Italy reacted to shock of Mercedes...

Lewis Hamilton to join Ferrari: How Italy reacted to shock of Mercedes driver switching teams for 2025 F1 season


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Confirmation of Lewis Hamilton’s blockbuster switch from Mercedes to Ferrari stunned sports fans around the world, but excitement levels are unmatched in the Formula 1-obssessed nation he is heading to.

Ferrari are basically Italy’s national team in F1. Win, lose or draw, the Tifosi – as their supporters are known – follow the Maranello-based outfit with feverous passion.

With it having been 15 years since Ferrari claimed the constructors’ title and 16 since Kimi Raikkonen delivered their last drivers’ crown, desperation for those streaks to end is ever-growing.

Therefore, the arrival of Hamilton – the sport’s most successful driver with seven world championships and 103 race wins – is a cause for huge celebration.

While attracting Hamilton is a huge coup for Ferrari and the attention generated by the move represents an equally great moment for F1 as a whole, there are many fascinating elements behind the making of the deal and others still to be told in the future.

To understand more about how the sport’s biggest-ever transfer happened, how Hamilton will be received in Italy, and his chances of claiming a record eighth title in Ferrari red, we spoke to Sky Italia’s F1 expert Roberto Chinchero.

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Valtteri Bottas believes Lewis Hamilton’s move to Ferrari will have a big impact on the driver market in 2025

‘A shock that was different to Schumacher or Vettel’

Hamilton activated a release clause in his current Mercedes contract which enabled him to leave the team at the end of this year.

He told Toto Wolff over a breakfast in Oxford about his decision to join Ferrari a day before Sky Sports confirmed the news, coincidentally, on football’s Deadline Day.

“It was a shock because after the announcement that confirmed Leclerc with a long-term contract, everybody was expecting the same approach with Carlos Sainz,” Chinchero told Sky Sports.

“The only question was about the terms, one season, two seasons, but everybody thought that Ferrari would confirm both for the future.

“Nobody was expecting Lewis. First of all, because Mercedes last September announced a two-year extension, so until the end of 2025. Everybody thought that Lewis was out of the market.

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“And then because many times in the past, Ferrari had a negotiation with Hamilton or his staff, and without success. So it looks like a story that never happened.

“It arrived in a very strange moment because if you think that Lewis’ announcement of two seasons with Mercedes was in September, he already announced a swap to Ferrari without racing any Grand Prix this year with Mercedes – it’s a very strange situation.

“But in the end, it was an earthquake, because you think the most successful driver in Formula 1 history is now in Maranello.

“He will be 40 years old, but I think that the performance that Fernando confirmed last year has shown everybody that this generation of drivers can run at a very professional level over the age of 40.”

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Toto Wolff shares how Lewis Hamilton first told him he would be leaving Mercedes to join Ferrari in 2025

Most of F1’s biggest names have all driven for Ferrari including Juan Manuel Fangio, Niki Lauda, Alain Prost, Michael Schumacher, Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel – Prost, Alonso and Vettel never became world champions with the Scuderia though.

Chinchero thinks Ferrari handled negotiations with Hamilton perfectly and only a handful of people knew about the deal before it was announced.

“It was the biggest story in Italy, not only in the sporting media, also on newspaper covers it was all Lewis. Everybody used photoshop to put a Ferrari suit on Lewis!” continued Chinchero.

“I think Mercedes is not very happy about that, but everybody wants to see Lewis in red. It was very big news.

“There was some football match that night but my colleague said that at the stadium everybody was talking about Lewis and Ferrari. It’s something that reminiscent of when Schumacher arrived in Maranello, Vettel arrived in Maranello, but this time I think it’s a little bit different, because everybody was sure that this may never happen.

“So it’s a bigger surprise. There were not any rumours before the announcement. That’s why I think that the big part of the negotiation probably has been between Lewis and John Elkann, and only the second part involved Fred Vasseur. I think not a lot of people knew about these negotiations in Maranello.

“What I heard for sure is that the all the technical staff and engineers in Maranello didn’t know that Lewis was coming. It was a surprise also for them. But if you want to keep secret a negotiation, you cannot share with more than three, four people – the risk is very high.

“So it was the biggest of news and the biggest surprise combined together in a moment where there is no racing, so all the spotlight was there. It was an absolutely tremendous announcement.”

The British drivers to race at least one Grand Prix for Ferrari

  • Peter Whitehead (1950)
  • Mike Hawthorn (1953-55, 1957-58)
  • Peter Collins (1956-58)
  • Tony Brooks (1959)
  • Cliff Allison (1960)
  • John Surtees (1963-66)
  • Mike Parkes (1966-67)
  • Jonathan Williams (1967)
  • Derek Bell (1968)
  • Nigel Mansell (1989-90)
  • Eddie Irvine (1996-2000)
  • Lewis Hamilton (from 2025)

The Elkann role

There’s no doubt that Ferrari chairman Elkann, who was appointed to the role in 2018 after the death of Sergio Marchionne, was key to getting Hamilton on board.

Elkann was the person to hire Frederic Vasseur as Ferrari’s team principal in January 2023 and 13 months on, he’s signed Hamilton.

“You have to consider that Sergio Marchione was the president and CEO of Ferrari. John Elkann is the same, but he’s the owner of the biggest part of Ferrari,” explained Chinchero.

“Of course there is in the stock of Pierro Ferrari, but John Elkann has the control. He’s the owner, the president and he has total control of Ferrari.

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“So I think in the first two to three seasons, his management was quite transparent. He doesn’t like to talk with media. I think he’s appeared just a couple of times in the paddock.

“If you remember Luca di Montezemolo or Sergio Marchione – it was a completely different approach, it was far more aggressive. John Elkann is completely different.

“And after two or three seasons, especially in Italy, and it was not good two or three seasons, because you remember 2021 was quite tough for the Ferrari people, a lot of people in Italy said ‘but this man, is he managing the team or not?’

“He is managing only the road car part of the company, that honestly he is running very well. And now I think, for the first time it appears, this is a John Elkann decision, first it was Vasseur.. and then after one year with Hamilton.

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“So now, I think people realise, ‘oh, John Elkann is taking decisions.’ And big ones, because I think from the financial point of view, Lewis’ deal is not very easy to do.

“I think it’s quite expensive. That means that they want to invest money, that means that they believe in Lewis, not only as a driver, probably also from the commercial point of view, he’s a big asset for Ferrari.”

How popular is Hamilton in Italy?

Hamilton had been involved in some big title fights against Ferrari drivers, so has not exactly had the Tifosi on his side when F1’s annual Italian Grand Prix takes place in Monza.

Raikkonen edged out Hamilton rookie season in 2007 but the then McLaren driver beat Felipe Massa in the most dramatic circumstances by overtaking Timo Glock on the last lap of the 2008 season to win his first title and deny Ferrari the drivers’ championship.

Nine years later, Hamilton got the better of Vettel in two championship fights in 2017 and 2018 but he’s always praised the Italian crowd and the respect he’s received has grown in recent years.

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“There was a lot of respect. Of course, especially in Italy, it’s different when you are against Ferrari, of course you are kind of an enemy, but in the end there was a big respect, like what happened with Ayrton Senna,” said Chinchero.

“He never drove for Ferrari but I think Italy is probably the second place in the world after Brazil, where until now, there are a lot of people that respect the Senna story.

“In the end, when you dress in red, to the Tifosi you become a hero. But I never heard bad comments about Lewis, just a big respect for his story. He comes from zero, he built his story by himself.

“When you’ve won more than 100 Grands Prix, you’ve won seven world championships… I remember, in Italy there was a big support to Lewis after Abu Dhabi 2021. I think probably 80 per cent of the Italians were supporting Lewis in that moment.”

Can Hamilton win a title with Ferrari?

World champions for Ferrari

  • Alberto Ascari (1952 and 1953)
  • Juan Manuel Fangio (1956)
  • Mike Hawthorn (1958)
  • Phil Hill (1961)
  • John Surtees (1964)
  • Niki Lauda (1975, 1977)
  • Jody Scheckter (1979)
  • Michael Schumacher (2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004)
  • Kimi Raikkonen (2007)

Only nine drivers have won a championship at Ferrari since F1 began in 1950, with Mike Hawthorn (1958) and John Surtees (1964) the only two Brits to become champion in red.

Hamilton is currently on his longest winless streak in F1, having not won a race since December 2021 but finished last year as the best non-Red Bull driver.

The 39-year-old is emulating his move to Mercedes in 2013 by getting a year under his belt with a new team before major regulation changes.

In 2026, there will be major regulation changes in F1 including now power unit rules that will almost certainly change the pecking order.

It’s likely that this would have been a key part of Hamilton’s thinking to join Ferrari as they prepare for that big season in two years.

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Sky F1’s Jenson Button would like to see his former team-mate Fernando Alonso replace Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes for the 2025 season

“I think at the moment the target is to fill the gap with Red Bull. Honestly, I think the target is 2026,” added Chinchero.

“Of course, they will try, like all the others, to fill this gap. But the technical rules are the same until the end of next year, so I think it should be quite difficult.

“But 2026, it’s a big chance. Not only for Ferrari, but for Mercedes, Aston Martin, for McLaren, everyone, it’s a big chance. I think that is the target.

“Lewis will have one season just to understand Ferrari. In terms of procedure, I don’t think that now there are big differences like in the past. The work system is very similar if you go to Mercedes, to Ferrari, but probably the context and scenarios will be completely different. So initially there’ll be time to try to acclimatise a little bit.

“But 2026, I’m sure that the target is to reach the top. I cannot imagine different.”

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Ralf Schumacher shares why he thinks Ferrari need Lewis Hamilton and what winning a title for them would mean

Hamilton vs Leclerc could be a ‘good’ problem

Hamilton will be the second multiple world champion Leclerc has gone up against at Ferrari, after the Monegasque driver stood his ground versus Vettel in 2019, 2020 and 2021.

Leclerc is arguably the quickest driver over one lap in F1 but the experience of Hamilton and his incredible race management means we could be in for an almighty team-mate battle from 2025.

“It’s potentially a problem, but I think probably for Ferrari, it will be a good a good problem to have,” explained Chinchero.

“I cannot imagine Leclerc and Lewis fighting for a third place or fourth place. Potentially the problem can arrive the day Ferrari has the car to compete for the world championship.

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Charles Leclerc says it is an honour to extend his contract at Ferrari and he hopes to share many more victories with the team

“What happened in the past between Lewis and Nico – in 2013, Nico and Lewis were good friends. I remember an interview when Nico said, ‘oh Lewis is coming to eat a pizza at my apartment in Monaco’. That’s because the car was good for two, three, four wins a season, so there was no material for fighting.

“Of course, when in 2014 the scenario completely changed, and the story was Lewis against Nico, then that completely changed everything.

“So from some point of view, I think in Maranello people are praying to have this kind of problem because in that case, it means that a lot of problems that you have now are fixed.

“So in the short-term, I’m not expecting problems. At the same time, I think that it’s a good chance for Charles. Every time you are with a very big champion you have something to learn. And I think Charles learned a lot from Sebastian, and I think that it’s a good chance also with Lewis.

“I’m expecting Charles to be a little bit faster in qualifying, but we know that Lewis has tremendous race vision, so that should be a good weapon in his pocket.”

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