On Feb. 7, news broke that shook the Formula One world (F1). Sir Lewis Hamilton, arguably F1’s greatest ever driver, would be leaving Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team after a run that included six of Hamilton’s seven F1 Drivers Championships. Hamilton is foregoing Mercedes in favor of Scuderia Ferrari, F1’s most historic and successful manufacturer.
While the news of Hamilton joining Ferrari is a surprise, the team’s prestige is unparalleled across the F1 landscape. Ferrari’s reputation is best encapsulated in a remark by another legend in Sebastian Vettel: “Everyone is a Ferrari fan. Even if they say they’re not, they are Ferrari fans.”.
Hamilton joins a long list of drivers drawn to Ferrari’s red outfit. Names like Vettel, Kimi Räikkönen, Michael Schumacher and Alain Prost all have been enticed by the prospect of competing for the Tifosi, Ferrari’s diehard fans.
Ferrari has many attractive qualities. Their state-of-the-art facilities are located in the heart of the Italian countryside. As mentioned before, their fans are incredibly passionate and loyal regardless of the team’s success. However, the aspect that truly sets it apart from other teams is the history, Ferrari is one of F1’s oldest constructors and sat at the dominant pole position throughout much of its long history. To illustrate this connection to F1’s roots, Ferrari has a special allocation of the prize money reserved for “historic constructors” only they receive.
Based on history alone, Ferrari should be the team to beat. However, they have not captured a Drivers or Constructors Championship since 2008. In the modern era, they are more of a laughing stock in F1. Instead of history and prestige, Ferrari has become synonymous with strategy blunders, reliability problems and lacking the extra gear necessary for success. The allure of Ferrari has changed to one that would be the person that returns them to championships. In his move to Ferrari, Hamilton looks to succeed where his most talented peers have failed.
The recent example is the aforementioned Vettel. The German driver fulfilled his lifelong dream of driving for Ferrari after securing four driver championships from 2010 to 2014 with Red Bull. At the time of his move to Ferrari, he was viewed as the prime candidate to shatter Schumacher’s Drivers World Championship record of 7 given he was just 28 years old. Vettel proved he was one of the fastest drivers on the grid throughout his Ferrari tenure, but he never achieved a title because of Hamilton’s dominance with Mercedes. However, the 39-year old Hamilton brings a different kind of legacy to Ferrari.
He has already matched Schumacher’s seven titles — a championship for Ferrari would cement his status as F1’s greatest driver. Furthermore, Hamilton’s consistency is unparalleled in modern F1. He has been the fastest or second fastest driver in every single one of his 16 year career. Success with the Scuderia is only a matter of ensuring the car at his disposal is capable of competing. It will take an organizational culture shift to capitalize on Hamilton’s move.
Fortunately, their recent moves suggest the Ferrari organization is aware of this fact. Ferrari made Fred Vasseur team principal after a long, successful run as a team principal at the Sauber F1 team.
They also acquired engineers from both Red Bull Racing and Mercedes to improve the capabilties of their car and avoid the mistakes that have plagued previous drivers and their cars.
On their current team, Ferrari already boasts one of the fastest drivers on the grid in Monacan driver Charles Leclerc. Leclerc and Hamilton profile as F1’s best duo and could easily ensure a return to greatness for Scuderia Ferrari.
Hamilton has already secured his personal legacy within F1, holding the most podium finishes and wins in F1 history at 103.Therefore, it is slightly shocking that he is ending his record-setting tenure with Mercedes.
However, Hamilton winning his final championship with Ferrari would cap off the career of one of the sport’s most legendary drivers.
It would restore a rich legacy of racing excellence to a fanbase thirsting for a return to greatness. In short, this move has enormous consequences for F1’s long history and is excting for the sport’s current landscape.