Italy’s Reaction to Hamilton’s Move to Ferrari for the 2025 F1 Season

Lewis Hamilton will conclude his time at Mercedes to embark on a new journey with Ferrari, sparking widespread discussion amongst Italian F1 fans.

Mark Phelan

By Mark Phelan
Updated on May 28, 2024

Lewis Hamiton Ferrari Move

The announcement of Lewis Hamilton’s monumental move from Mercedes to Ferrari has surprised the global sports community, igniting unparalleled excitement in the country at the heart of F1.

Ferrari, often regarded as Italy’s de facto national team in F1, commands a loyal fanbase. The Tifosi, as the fans are affectionately called, support the Maranello-based team with unwavering enthusiasm, regardless of the outcomes.

The anticipation for Ferrari to break its 15-year constructors’ title drought and 16 years since Kimi Raikkonen secured their last drivers’ championship is intensifying. The acquisition of Hamilton, the most decorated driver in the sport with seven world titles and 103 race victories, is being celebrated as a monumental achievement.

Securing Hamilton not only marks a significant victory for Ferrari but also signifies a pivotal moment for Formula 1 at large, presenting numerous intriguing aspects of the deal and promising more stories to unfold.

To delve deeper into the unprecedented transfer, the reception Hamilton is anticipated to receive in Italy, and his prospects of clinching an eighth world title with Ferrari, Sky Sports F1 sought insights from Roberto Chinchero, Sky Italia’s F1 specialist.

‘A transition unlike any other’

Hamilton leveraged a clause in his existing contract with Mercedes, allowing him to exit the team after the current year. His decision was disclosed to Toto Wolff during a breakfast in Oxford, shortly before Sky Sports broke the news, interestingly coinciding with the climax of the football transfer window.

“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.

“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.”

Many of Formula 1’s legendary drivers, such as Juan Manuel Fangio, Niki Lauda, Alain Prost, Michael Schumacher, Fernando Alonso, and Sebastian Vettel, have all taken the wheel for Ferrari. However, Prost, Alonso, and Vettel did not secure world championships during their tenure with the Scuderia.

Chinchero believes that Ferrari managed the negotiations with Hamilton flawlessly, with the details of the deal remaining known to only a select few until its official announcement.

“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 influence of Elkann

Ferrari’s chairman, Elkann, who assumed his position in 2018 following Sergio Marchionne’s passing, played a crucial role in securing Hamilton’s agreement to join the team.

Elkann, who was instrumental in appointing Frederic Vasseur as Ferrari’s team principal in January 2023, successfully facilitated Hamilton’s signing just 13 months later.

“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.

“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.

“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.”

Hamilton’s popularity in Italy

Hamilton’s intense championship battles against Ferrari’s drivers have historically placed him at odds with the Tifosi, especially during the Italian Grand Prix at Monza.

In his debut season in 2007, Hamilton narrowly lost to Raikkonen, but in 2008, he dramatically clinched his first championship by surpassing Felipe Massa after overtaking Timo Glock on the final lap, thereby preventing Ferrari from winning the drivers’ championship.

However, Hamilton triumphed over Vettel in the championship contests of 2017 and 2018. Despite these rivalries, Hamilton has consistently expressed admiration for the Italian fans, and over the years, the respect he receives from them has notably increased.

“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

Since the inception of Formula 1 in 1950, only nine drivers have secured a championship with Ferrari, among them, British drivers Mike Hawthorn in 1958 and John Surtees in 1964 are the only ones to have won the title in Ferrari’s iconic red.

Currently, Hamilton is experiencing the longest drought of victories in his F1 career, with his last win dating back to December 2021, though he finished the previous season as the top driver outside of the dominant Red Bull team.

At 39 years old, Hamilton is mirroring his strategic shift to Mercedes in 2013 by spending a year with a new team to acclimate ahead of significant regulatory changes.

In 2026, F1 will undergo major regulatory adjustments, including new power unit rules, which are expected to significantly alter the competitive landscape.

This anticipated shift likely played a crucial role in Hamilton’s decision to join Ferrari, positioning himself strategically as the team gears up for the transformative 2026 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.”

The Hamilton-Leclerc dynamic: A potentially ‘positive’ phallenge

Charles Leclerc, having previously held his own against Vettel, a multiple world champion, at Ferrari during the 2019, 2020, and 2021 seasons, is set to face another formidable teammate in Hamilton. This will mark the second time Leclerc has competed alongside a driver of such high calibre within the team.

Widely regarded as one of the fastest drivers in qualifying, Leclerc’s raw speed is undisputed. However, Hamilton’s vast experience and exceptional skill in race strategy suggest that their partnership could lead to a highly competitive internal rivalry starting in 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.

“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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About The Author

Senior Editor

Mark Phelan
Mark Phelan

Mark is a staff writer specialising in the history of Formula 1 races. Mark researches most of our historic content from teams to drivers and races. He has followed Formula 1 since 1988, and admits to having a soft spot for British drivers from James Hunt and Nigel Mansell to Lando Norris. He loves a great F1 podcast and has read pretty much every drivers biography.

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