We’re only 5 races into the 2023 Formula 1 World Championship and it seems silly season has already kicked off, with rumours now spreading that seven-time champ Lewis Hamilton is considering a move from Mercedes to Ferrari.
Sir Lewis Hamilton, who has been with Mercedes for a decade where he’s won six of his seven titles, is out of contract at the end of this year and has yet to re-sign with the team. Mercedes is in the midst of an unprecedented form slump, and it seems Hamilton’s teammate, fellow Brit George Russell, is being primed to be Mercedes’ #1 driver.
At the same time, Ferrari’s #1 driver, Monégasque young gun Charles Leclerc, is reportedly extremely unhappy with the Italian team, which is also underperforming… And Mercedes reportedly has their eye on Leclerc, too.
It’s understood Ferrari is prepared to start negotiations with Hamilton at AU$ 74.9 million, which is roughly in line with reports of his current salary. But for Hamilton, it’s not all about the money, as he’s also spoken openly over the years about his aspirations to race in red at some point in his career. He also owns a few Ferrari road cars…
Whether Mercedes and Ferrari swap Leclerc for Hamilton, or Hamilton takes the place of Carlos Sainz Jr. at Ferrari, if this pulls off, it’ll be one of the biggest driver deals in Formula 1 history.
Lewis Hamilton inspects Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari SF21 ahead of the 2021 Formula 1 World Championship. Image: Motorsport Week
Mixed messages from Hamilton and Leclerc
Both Leclerc and Hamilton have sent mixed messages about their respective desires to race for Ferrari, though.
While Leclerc has made no effort to hide how frustrated he’s been with the team over the last two seasons – particularly in 2022, where he lost his early lead in the Driver’s Championship thanks to a number of strategy and reliability blunders on Ferrari’s part – he’s also publically affirmed how committed he is to Ferrari.
“I’m in red, and I think it’s quite obvious how much I love Ferrari and how much I want to win at Ferrari,” Leclerc stated recently.
It’s also worth remembering that Leclerc has a particular emotional attachment to Ferrari. Jules Bianchi, Leclerc’s godfather, died tragically after a mammoth crash at the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix as he was on the poise of being named a Ferrari driver. To Leclerc, driving for Ferrari is a way to honour Bianchi.
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Additionally, Fred Vasseur, who has just joined Ferrari as team principal for the 2023 season, is a long-time Leclerc ally. Vasseur hasn’t had much of a chance to stamp his authority and make substantive changes at the struggling team yet, so Leclerc might be willing to hold on for a bit to see what Vasseur can do.
But if Leclerc suffers another season of Ferrari being, well, Ferrari, he might decide to pack up and chase a driver’s title elsewhere… And Mercedes, despite their woes, is still a top team.
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As for Lewis, he’s also poured water on the prospect of a Ferrari move – but where there’s smoke, there’s fire…
“I’d be lying if I said I’d never thought about ending my career anywhere else,” Hamilton recently told ESPN.
“I thought about and watched the Ferrari drivers on the screens at the track and of course, you wonder what it would be like to be in red. But then I go to my team, to Mercedes, and this is my home. I’m happy where I am. I haven’t signed a contract yet, but we are working on one.”
Could Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc swap places? Image: Sky Sports
Of course, the other possibility is that Lewis might retire at the end of his season, making any sort of musical chairs between drivers a slightly less complicated prospect.
That said, there’s no shortage of racers waiting in the wings for a seat at either Mercedes or Ferrari. Mick Schumacher, who lost his seat at Haas last year and has been taken on as Mercedes’ reserve driver, would be a likely candidate to take Lewis’ seat if the GOAT retired.
Similarly, we can imagine that if Leclerc wanted to leave Ferrari (or if Ferrari give Sainz the flick), then a certain Daniel Ricciardo – who was once tipped to join Ferrari and has an Italian background – could also be a candidate to race for the Scuderia…
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