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Hamilton stuns F1 world with Ferrari switch

Hamilton is slowing down despite having the title in the bag. (Image Steve Etherington/Mercedes Benz)
Roar Guru
31st March, 2018
2
2920 Reads

Ferrari has confirmed that Lewis Hamilton will join the Italian manufacturer from 2019, a move which has blindsided many who believed the four-time world champion would complete his Formula One career at Mercedes.

Hamilton has signed a three-year agreement with the Maranello outfit concluding in 2021, his 15th season on the grid, by which time the Briton will be 36.

He has just commenced his sixth campaign with Mercedes, a stint which has featured three titles, having debuted for McLaren in 2007, where he claimed his first crown in his second season.

The reigning champion’s dissatisfaction with his second place at last weekend’s curtain-raising Australian Grand Prix is believed to have proven a catalyst for the unforeseen development at a time when his continuation with the Brackley outfit was considered a formality.

Granted the freedom which was so ubiquitously suppressed by McLaren under Ron Dennis’s watch, it can only be surmised that Hamilton has outgrown Mercedes, having achieved so much in recent seasons, or has been offered an irresistible financial package.

Lewis Hamilton smiles

(Steve Etherington/Mercedes Benz)

Irrespective of the cause, it’s uncertain at this stage who Hamilton will line up alongside next season. Despite Sebastian Vettel’s commitment to Ferrari through to 2020, the two are an unlikely combination, and links will naturally be drawn between the German driver entering into collaboration with the German manufacturer.

Vettel has entered his fourth season at Ferrari and, despite his victory at Melbourne, has grown weary of the relentless pressure applied by its mercurial CEO, Sergio Marchionne, coupled with doubts surrounding the team’s future in the sport as negotiations over Formula One’s regulations beyond 2020 reach an impasse.

Meanwhile, Mercedes has lacked resonance with its local audience since Nico Rosberg’s shock retirement following his 2016 title, so it can be expected to pursue the grid’s other four-time champion in kind to replace the yawning void Hamilton will leave.

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If Vettel can’t be convinced and Ferrari forms the most successful pairing of all-time, Mercedes will be forced to consider alternatives, with both Red Bull Racing drivers its primary candidates.

Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel during 2018 preseason testing

(Pablo Guillen/Action Plus via Getty Images)

Max Verstappen is tied to the Milton Keynes outfit until 2020, though if Mercedes is desperate and unshackled from parting with a Hamilton-level retainer, it would be willing to pay whatever it takes to lure the Dutchman, who at just 20 is already regarded as the sport’s future.

Daniel Ricciardo is a much more straightforward option, as the Australian is a free agent following this season. The 28-year old has displayed signs of being marginalised by his teammate and the support increasingly tending in the latter’s direction, so will be looking to break free at first opportunity.

Mercedes has plenty of time to weigh up its options, and regardless of the identity of Hamilton’s replacement, Liberty Media will be delighted with this development. It would be unsurprising to learn that it played a considerable hand in the outcome at a time when public sentiment on its impact on the sport has been polarising following the honeymoon period.

Whatever comes of 2019 and beyond, the current season is only getting started and Hamilton could yet contribute another title to one of Formula One’s most ruthless eras of domination before a red wedding.

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