Lewis Hamilton: Do Ferrari Need To Do The Unthinkable?
The Formula 1 season may not yet be over on paper, but it is in practice. Two races remain – one in Brazil and one in Abu Dhabi. Both of them will be dead rubbers. The construction’s championship is, yet again, in the hands of Mercedes. Even more predictably, the driver’s championship is in the hands of Lewis Hamilton. The British driver is now second only to the great Michael Schumacher when it comes to all-time championship wins, and will match the German next season if the rest of the field doesn’t dramatically improve their performance.
For Ferrari, it’s been yet another season of disappointment. They’re the grand old team of Formula 1. They’ve been involved in the sport from its very beginnings, and have millions of fans all over the globe. They’re the Real Madrid of motor racing – everyone knows they’re the richest team, and everyone expects them to win. Sometimes they do win, but not with enough consistency, and rarely when it matters. They haven’t had a world champion driver since Kimi Raikonnen won for them in 2007. They haven’t had a constructor’s championship since the following year. It’s been more than a decade of disappointment for the Italian team, and it has to come to an end soon.
That leaves them facing a big question about their drivers. There’s little doubt that Charles Leclerc is one for the future. He’s performed admirably this year, landing his maiden F1 victories and routinely out-qualifying and out-performing his four-time world champion teammate Sebastian Vettel. It’s more likely than not that he’ll eventually become a world champion, even if he does have to wait for the much-older Hamilton to retire first. The future of Vettel is much less certain.
When Vettel signed for Ferrari, his job was to deliver the world championship. He’d done it four times for Red Bull, and he was seen to have all the tools to do it again for Ferrari. He was given the best car they could come up with, and all the backing he could ever wish for. For a variety of reasons, he’s never been able to do it. There have been seasons when he’s been unlucky to miss out, but for the main part, he’s simply been trapped in the shadow of an all-time great in the shame of Hamilton. He’s made errors with Hamilton on his tail in races more times than we can count, and those errors have ultimately left Hamilton walking away with the trophies and the prize money. This year he’s looked more off the pace than ever before. Short of a miraculous return to form, his time at the top is surely coming to an end.
That leaves Ferrari with an interesting quandary. They have a driver coming to the end of his usefulness, and only a fool would think that they haven’t had conversations about replacing him. Some people even expect him to be gone at the end of this season, but that might not be the smart solution. If they can persevere with Vettel for one more season, they have a chance to do the unthinkable. Lewis Hamilton’s current contract with Mercedes comes to an end in 2020. He’ll be 35 by that time. What are the chances that he’d agree to sign off his career by joining his old rivals to deliver the one thing that he’s denied them for almost the past ten years? What if Hamilton were to join Ferrari?
To some people, this would be unthinkable. Hamilton is unpopular with Ferrari fans and hasn’t always spoken of the team in glowing terms in the past. Ferrari has similarly expressed resentments for some of the past words and deeds of the Brit, but ultimately Formula 1 is a results-driven business, and differences are easy to put aside when there’s money on the table and trophies to be won. In the case of Formula 1, the money is hugely significant – and that could motivate both parties to put their differences aside and sign an agreement.
Nobody can guarantee the performance of any driver in any car, as Ferrari found out when they signed Vettel. Racing in Formula 1 is surprisingly similar to playing the ‘Formula X’ mobile slots game – you put money in, and you have no idea what you might walk away with. Plenty of players have won big money playing that mobile slots game on website like Rose Slots, and others have had their pockets emptied. Ferrari has been playing mobile slots with Vettel for many years now, and he appears to be no closer to landing the jackpot now than he was when he first joined. If anything, he’s further away from it. Hamilton might be the closest thing to a safe bet possible in this highly competitive world.
Money is unlikely to be the sole motivator for Ferrari. Almost one billion dollars of prize money is paid out every season, and Ferrari earns enough of that pot not to worry about their future from a financial point of view. For Ferrari, it’s all about the honor of victory, and respecting their own proud legacy. If they believe they have a chance of putting Lewis Hamilton behind the wheel of one of their cars, it’s a virtual certainty that they would pursue that opportunity. But would Hamilton take it?
Lewis Hamilton is hard to read. It once seemed that he would never leave McLaren, but he did so when he felt the car was no longer competitive. Moving to Mercedes has won him five out of his six world championships, and so long as the car remains competitive, there’s no reason for him to leave other than the challenge. Whoever wins Ferrari’s next world championship will instantly be afforded legendary status within the team. Hamilton doesn’t need any more money, and he barely needs any more accolades. The chance to write history with Ferrari, however, might be a draw that he simply cannot resist.
Could Lewis Hamilton really join Ferrari? Absolutely. In fact, the only thing that might stop it would be a Sebastian Vettel world championship win next season – and we’re not holding our breath for that.