At the end of last season, Hamilton was sounding equivocal about his belief in Mercedes’ ability to recover from two difficult seasons and challenge Red Bull.
In an interview with BBC Sport and other selected outlets at the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi, he said: “I do believe we have a North Star now. Which I don’t think we’ve had for two years. But still getting there is not a straight line.
“I think we understand the car so much better. They have developed great tools in the background. So naturally, I’m hopeful, but I’m not going to hold my breath.”
Ferrari have also had a difficult few seasons, and the two teams were locked in a battle for second in the constructors’ championship last year, which Mercedes narrowly won despite the Ferrari being the faster car by the end of the season.
Hamilton’s move will send shockwaves through F1 – similar to those when he chose to leave McLaren for Mercedes for the 2013 season.
At the time, many questioned Hamilton’s decision, but it turned out to be remarkably prescient – he and the team dominated F1 from the 2014 season, making the Briton the most successful driver in F1 history.
The lure of Ferrari, the sport’s most historic and evocative team, is strong for many drivers. Until now, Hamilton seemed to be immune to it – he has said on several occasions that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with Mercedes, and the pair have a number of projects together, especially on diversity and racial equality.
But it seems the chance to spend the final years of his career driving for Ferrari may be too good to turn down – it is something Hamilton’s boyhood idol Ayrton Senna was also planning to do before he was killed in a crash while driving for Williams in the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix.
Hamilton’s move will explode the F1 driver market.
Mercedes would be looking for a replacement for Hamilton at the end of the season, Ferrari’s Sainz would be looking for a new job.
And other than Fernando Alonso, whose Aston Martin contract expires this season, none of the recognised top drivers would be available to join Mercedes alongside George Russell.
Max Verstappen is contracted to Red Bull until 2027, Leclerc is committed to Ferrari and Lando Norris has also just signed a new deal at McLaren.
First appeared on www.bbc.com