A season ahead which was looking so stale, with no new drivers and no new races, has now burst into life with the news that the seven-time F1 world champion is leaving Mercedes for the aura and romance of a tilt in scarlet red.
The impact for some is obvious. Carlos Sainz has been hard done by and now needs to find a seat on the grid for 2025, while Ferrari team principal Fred Vasseur and CEO John Elkann have pulled off a coup in landing Hamilton’s signature.
But who else benefits and loses out from Hamilton’s move to Ferrari next year?
As now the only confirmed driver for Mercedes in 2025, on the cusp of a new era of regulations a year later, this is the opportunity for George Russell to be the maker of his own destiny.
Upon arriving at a seat at the top table in 2022, Russell thought he’d be joining the sport’s No 1 powerhouse after eight straight team championships. But two years dogged down after failing miserably with their car design and aerodynamics saw Mercedes struggle, though Russell did seal his first F1 win in 2022 in Brazil.
Yet you always felt as though Russell was teetering around Hamilton’s vast shadow at the Silver Arrows. Not a concrete No 2 by any means – he finished above Hamilton in his debut year at Mercedes – but Hamilton’s vast experience and success made it difficult for Russell to create his own identity under Wolff’s guidance.
No more. Wolff was keen to emphasise in a media call on Friday that Russell will now become the “team leader.” No matter who comes in as Hamilton’s replacement, Russell should now be the main man – and he must use that advantage to battle for titles.
He’s made his mind up. After years of flirtations with a move to Maranello, Hamilton has decided to roll the dice and – as discussed yesterday – it is a gamble worth taking.
Should he stay at Mercedes in the same machinery which has failed him the last two winless years – or take an Italian plunge and finish his glittering career at the sport’s most iconic team?
Beyond the financials and the aura, Hamilton will be desperate to land the record-breaking eighth title at Ferrari. Clearly, he has been given assurances that they will have a car to challenge Red Bull and Max Verstappen. That’s what he wants the most; it’ll be fascinating to see how it plays out.
We just have to wait 12 months.
For Ferrari – namely team principal Fred Vasseur and chairman John Elkann – it is the most striking of signings.
The Scuderia will next year have the dream duo. Hamilton in the garage alongside Charles Leclerc, signed up until 2029, is the golden ticket for an F1 team. One of the greatest of all time alongside one of the sport’s quickest drivers.
It could cause tension, sure. Will they take points off each other, with no clear designation of a No 1? Possibly. But the partnership alone triggers pure excitement. All eyes will be on the prancing horse.
He won’t admit it, but F1’s chief executive needed this shock switch.
The 2024 campaign was looking all too predictable, with no new drivers from the last race of last year in Abu Dhabi and no new races, despite a record-breaking 24-race calendar. The sport needed a firework – and now they have it.
While it’s true we have to wait one year, Hamilton’s move to Ferrari will play a firm role in many storylines this season now. Furthermore, it’s a dream for Netflix and Drive to Survive, arguably F1’s most vital modern partner.
Chaos and drama at two of his biggest rivals? Perfect for the man to beat.
While his greatest rival has switched teams, it is one rival to another. Crucially, given talks between Anthony Hamilton and Christian Horner last year, the 39-year-old has not moved to Red Bull.
It means Verstappen’s hegemony over the team is secured in the long-term, no matter who comes in for Sergio Perez when the Mexican – in all likelihood – departs at the end of his deal this year. And Red Bull are still very much the team to beat.
Let’s start with the most obvious. This is a bitter pill for Carlos Sainz to swallow.
The only non-Red Bull driver to win a race last year – with a terrifically intelligent drive in Singapore - the Spaniard would be right to feel hard done by. Yes, he’s made mistakes, but his progress as a driver while at the Scuderia has been unquestionable.
But F1 is full of stories of drivers being harshly swept aside. Sainz will come back – and should have no shortage of suitors.
This is the most compelling narrative to analyse when Hamilton moves to Ferrari. What sort of effect will it have on Charles Leclerc?
Signed on until 2029, Leclerc looks set to be in it for the long haul at the Scuderia, having joined in 2019 and immediately becoming a tifosi favourite with wins at Spa and Monza.
One of the quickest drivers – if not the quickest – over one lap, Leclerc will have assumed his new contract meant the effective No 1 spot. Try telling Hamilton that.
The dynamic between the pair next year could well make or break Ferrari’s 2025. Which way it swings, and whether Leclerc electrifies or dwindles alongside one of the greatest, will be captivating viewing.
Wolff, technical director James Allison, and Mercedes as a whole.
It’s a tough one to take. A shock for all personnel at the Silver Arrows. Even one of Hamilton’s closest confidantes – race engineer Peter “Bono” Bonnington – replied to Wolff when told of the news with: “Is it April 1st already?”
They’ve had a terrific run. In fact, the best team-driver partnership in F1’s 74-year history. And they will want to end it on a high this year.
But whoever Wolff brings in next year, it will be a downgrade. This will take some digesting – and he may well take his time in deciding who comes in next.