Formula 1 earthquake: Lewis Hamilton enters Michael Schumacher’s sacred Ferrari empire

Hamilton enters Schumi’s realm
Formula 1 is getting the biggest story imaginable

By Tobias Nordmann and Martin Armbruster

It is the biggest driver earthquake in Formula 1 since Ayrton Senna moved from McLaren to Williams for the 1994 season: Lewis Hamilton leaves Mercedes behind and settles into Michael Schumacher’s F1 living room next year. What’s behind it.

Formula 1 may be booming, especially in the Arab states and the USA. But for years it has been missing a grand narrative that fascinates people around the world. First Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes and then Max Verstappen in the Red Bull turned the premier class of motorsport into a monarchy at the top. I am the victory. Afterwards the ranks were rolled out, but the rough distribution of places on and around the podium was often clear. And there was little else spectacle on the route either.

What struck the paddock as a complete surprise this Thursday seems all the greater. The eternal flirtation of Sir Lewis Hamilton and Scuderia Ferrari turns into a permanent relationship. From the 2025 season, the 40-year-old will climb into the red car and want to blow away the dust of frustration and mistakes from the struggling traditional brand. The black horse on a yellow background should once again set the pace on the track and gallop away from the competition. Can that work? Nobody can answer this big question on February 1, 2024. And it doesn’t even appear (yet). Since the announcement of Michael Schumacher’s comeback in 2009, no news has shaken up the premier class like this.

First of all, the headline is out in the world and the fans’ imaginations run wild. So there it is, the big story that was so eagerly awaited. In the future, Hamilton will take a seat in Michael Schumacher’s Formula 1 living room, with whom he still shares the title of record world champion. Both were champions seven times each. Given the absurd dominance of Verstappen and Red Bull, it does not seem likely that the Brit will overtake the legend this season, which begins in Bahrain at the beginning of March. But what comes next? And why is Hamilton, despite a valid contract, moving to a team that has hardly gotten anything done recently?

Why Hamilton’s calculations can really work

Perhaps the most spectacular change in the history of the premier class, or at least the biggest since Ayrton Senna’s departure from McLaren to Williams in 1994, shows what great magic still emanates from Ferrari. The racing team is a myth, a life goal for every driver. No matter how competitive the red car may be. This myth is robust against all setbacks, debacles and embarrassments. It has more charisma than Mercedes or the Red Bull empire. Whoever makes it at Ferrari, i.e. becomes world champion, is even more of a legend than anywhere else. Schumacher freed the team from the burden of titlelessness in 2000 after 21 years. His place on Mount Olympus was secure. The fact that four more triumphs in red followed made him unassailable.

Whether it will stay that way forever has been a little more questionable since Thursday. Because of course Hamilton comes with great aggressiveness. His move to Ferrari is not just a love story, but also linked to an ice-cold calculation. The Brit senses his chance for sole place in the Formula 1 Olympus. The fact that he would crash “Schumi” into his car, of all things, is the big story of the years 2025 and 2026. A highly emotional one, which also brings up the GOAT (Greatest of all time) question, which will be discussed very passionately . Because Schumacher fans will adore their Michael forever. Hamilton’s contract with Ferrari is (initially) limited to two years. It’s the opposite way of Schumacher, who was successful at Ferrari and then no longer found his luck at Mercedes.

The right nose again?

And the second year of the contract is likely to be much more exciting. Because with the 2026 season, the major engine reform will take effect in Formula 1. The drives are becoming significantly more electric. The statics of power in the premier class will change and offer Ferrari a great opportunity to return to the top. Because when it comes to engine development, the Scuderia is still way ahead, is absolutely world class and can draw on a crazy wealth of experience. And so it cannot be ruled out that Ferrari will provide the best package in 2026.

Hamilton had already had the right nose when he moved to Mercedes. When he was persuaded by Niki Lauda to leave McLaren and join the Silver Arrows in 2012, the traditional British racing team was still clearly stronger than Mercedes. But even then a major engine revolution was imminent. After a bridging year in 2013, the team driven by Lauda and Toto Wolff drove ahead of everyone in 2014 thanks to the new, mandatory hybrid engines. Until 2021. Until Verstappen and Red Bull heralded the change of power in a dramatic season finale.

Big names failed at Ferrari

The expectations for Hamilton are gigantic. As always with Ferrari. And there are warning examples of top drivers who failed at the Scuderia: Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso, Alain Prost and Nigel Mansell. They came, despaired and left. Hamilton is not afraid of the challenge, which is still the greatest accolade in Formula 1. With team boss Fred Vasseur, he knows someone at his side who thinks like him. The strong man is currently rebuilding the racing team and “Britianizing” it. For example, Loic Serra, the performance boss of the Silver Arrows, is also coming to Ferrari in 2025.

Hamilton’s change will shake up the field of drivers. Charles Leclerc, the homegrown player, will remain at his side. A real Ferrari boy who won’t become the wingman without a fight. But what is more exciting is the question of what is happening at Mercedes. Is the door now opening for Mick Schumacher, whom team boss Toto Wolff has been praising for years and who is already involved in the work as a test driver? Who might then also fight for his father’s record title in a duel with Hamilton?

The name of F1 Methuselah Fernando Alonso is also likely to be hotly discussed soon. His contract with Aston Martin is expiring. His performance there last season was great, despite being 42 years old. But the list of names doesn’t end there: Esteban Ocon and Alex Albon are buzzing in the cosmos of the Silver Arrows and have earned a lot of merit. Carlos Sainz Jr. , who has to vacate for Hamilton, could also be interesting as a temporary solution until the Mercedes super talent Andrea Kimi Antonelli (in Formula 2 since this year), praised by Wolff, has the necessary maturity. But above all, Hamilton shines and the big story that the personified Silver Arrow could complement the red Baron Schumacher in the red racing car away from the Formula 1 throne from 2025.

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