When we think of the winter transfer deadline day, minds hark back to Philippe Coutinho’s £142m move to Barcelona, Enzo Fernandez’s move to Chelsea and Virgil van Dijk’s shift from Southampton to Liverpool. But this year, on an otherwise quieter deadline day, all of the talk was taken up by F1 rather than football.
Because Lewis Hamilton, British motorsporting legend and seven-time F1 world champion, agreed a move from Mercedes, his home since 2013, to Ferrari.
“The time is right for me to take this step and I’m excited to be taking on a new challenge,” he said.
And though the deal does not begin until 2025, giving the Brit time to tease his staff along for the ride, it marks a monumental moment in Formula 1 where the very tectonic plates of the sport’s current foundations are moving.
F1 dream team
He will partner Charles Leclerc in his attempts to take on Max Verstappen and Red Bull, and it will see Carlos Sainz leave the Prancing Horses for pastures new.
But the reality is, when it comes to the move, it is a win-win for Hamilton. He’s either going to win an eighth world championship and go ahead of Michael Schumacher in the all-time standings, and by proxy become the greatest to ever race not only in the opinion of many but statistically.
Or he is going to make a healthy wage where his projects, that tackle sustainability and social injustice, are given funding.
Hamilton’s new deal with Ferrari and their Tifosi is reportedly worth $100m (£79m) per season and could see him feature for the Italian constructor in 2026.
And 2026 is a major year for F1 with a number of new regulations expected to see a shift in performance for a number of teams.
Hamilton’s move, therefore, is not just an endorsement of the project going on in northern Italy but it is a frank assessment of where Mercedes are as a team at the moment.
Though Hamilton and his boss Toto Wolff have insisted that 2024 will be a year where the driver and team give everything to one another, it will not be out of the question to see Hamilton’s current teammate George Russell thrusted into the role as primary driver.
It could therefore get a little bit sour at Mercedes across the 2024 season with a number of individuals knowing their time is up but the move itself for the seven-time world champion is simply a no-brainer.
Formula 1, its 20 drivers and Drive to Survive have been annual staples in providing fans with drama. But a move such as this one, described by some paddock insiders as one of the largest ever in the world of sport, coming before the 2024 season has given fans everything they could have hoped for and the first practice session hasn’t even started yet.