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Lewis Hamilton to Ferrari: Why F1 great has made calculated risk to leave Mercedes to shock move

Lewis Hamilton to Ferrari: Why F1 great has made calculated risk to leave Mercedes to shock move

There was a certain irony that comfortably the biggest deal on transfer deadline day had nothing to do with football.

And there was a surreal moment on Sky Sports where Paul Merson was left to dissect the seismic news of Lewis Hamilton's departure to Ferrari at the end of this season before any Formula 1 pundits could be shipped in.

Rarely in F1 — where whispers are seemingly a pre-requisite — is news of this magnitude kept under wraps but this one dropped like a bombshell from nowhere.

That was, in part, down to its sudden nature, Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff also caught unaware when Hamilton broke the news to him in person at his Oxfordshire home the day before.

Hamilton had previously given the impression he was a lifer at Mercedes but loyalty only gets you so far with a grand prix driver.

Hamilton must believe Ferrari offer him the best chance of an eighth world title, the one thing really keeping him on the grid

Ferrari have long been an itch for the 39-year-old, which finally became unbearable.

And the seven-time world champion clearly saw things in the team that Mercedes simply could not offer. It is not believed that Ferrari have hugely eclipsed his annual salary around the £40million mark.

But what they could do is offer a deal into 2026 with the new engine regulations, something Mercedes would not countenance. The bigger issue must, to a certain extent, be an unknown as Lewis has not yet got behind the wheel of the W15, this year's Mercedes. But Hamilton must believe that Ferrari offer him the best chance of an eighth world title, the one thing really keeping him on the grid.

He has said as much over the years. Speaking towards the end of last season, he said: "Going to another team with a good car because you don't win has zero appeal for me."

Clearly, his view of Ferrari's capabilities have changed, and he is willing to take a calculated risk in the last move of his illustrious career.

Whatever his thinking, it has brought the two biggest brands in F1 together in Hamilton and Ferrari, and the entire paddock was left salivating at the prospect.

Ferrari have struggled to make their mark with any consistency since the days of Michael Schumacher's dominance. Kimi Raikkonen was their last drivers' champion, in 2007, when Hamilton was making his F1 debut. And the last constructors' crown came just a year later.

Ferrari team principal Fred Vasseur is clearly key in all this. He and Hamilton are close from his days as the Briton's team boss back before his F1 days.

But it was Ferrari president John Elkann who quickly got Hamilton to sign once he heard the driver was wavering over his future.

The shock news brings an entirely different dynamic just days out from the season's start. Sure, the expectation is Max Verstappen will again dominate for Red Bull and yet Hamilton to Ferrari is all anyone is talking about the morning after transfer deadline day.