Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Bahrain International Circuit, 2024 pre-season test

Schumacher inspired my Ferrari move, Vasseur made it possible – Hamilton

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Lewis Hamilton has spoken for the first time about his surprise decision to join Ferrari next year, revealing what inspired it and how it came about.

He wants to emulate Formula 1’s only other seven-times world champion, Michael Schumacher, by driving for the series’ most historic team. But Hamilton said his move would not have been possible without the efforts of Ferrari team principal Frederic Vasseur, who he drove for earlier in his career.

“I’ve got a great relationship with Fred. Obviously, I raced with him in Formula 3, we had amazing success in Formula 3 and also in GP2 and that’s really where the foundation of our relationship started.”

While Hamilton arrived in F1 with McLaren the following year, Vasseur had to wait almost 10 years for his chance to join the series. Following stints at Renault and Alfa Romeo he became Ferrari team principal at the beginning of last year.

Frederic Vasseur, Lewis Hamilton, 2023
Vasseur made Hamilton’s Ferrari deal happen
“We always remained in touch and I thought that he was going to be an amazing team manager at some stage and progress to Formula 1, but at the time he wasn’t interested in that,” said Hamilton. “It was really cool to see him step into the Alfa team and then when he got the job at Ferrari I was just so happy for him.

“I think just the stars aligned. It wouldn’t have happened without him so I’m really grateful and excited about the work that he’s doing there.”

Schumacher’s consecutive championship wins at Ferrari between 2000 and 2004 remains the longest unbroken run by a single driver. Hamilton, who matched Schumacher’s record total of seven world championship wins in 2020, said he was inspired to emulate him.

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“I think for every driver growing up, watching the history, watching Michael Schumacher in his prime. I think probably all of us sit in our garage and see the screen pop up and you see the driver in the red cockpit, and you wonder what it would be like to be surrounded by the red.

Michael Schumacher, Ferrari, Melbourne, 2003
Hamilton will emulate Schumacher by joining Ferrari
“You go to the Italian Grand Prix and you see the sea of red Ferrari fans, and you can only stand in awe of that. It’s a team that’s not had huge success, really since most obviously Michael’s days, but since 2007 and I saw it as a huge challenge.

“Without a doubt, even as a kid, I used to play on Grand Prix 2 as Michael in that car, so it definitely is a dream and I’m really, really excited about it.”

Hamilton’s decision to join Ferrari surprised many, as Mercedes announced in September last year he would drive for them in 2024 and 2025. “At that time I saw my future with Mercedes,” he said. “But an opportunity came up in the new year and I decided to take it.

“It was obviously the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make. I’ve been with Mercedes for, I think, 26 years they’ve supported me, and we’ve had an absolutely incredible journey together.

“We’ve created history within the sport and it’s something I take a lot of pride and I’m very proud of what we’ve achieved. But I think ultimately I’m writing my story and I felt like it was time to start a new chapter.”

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Although he has owned Ferrari road cars in the past, Hamilton has not yet visited their famous factory in Maranello. “I bought my first Ferrari in 2010, I think, that was my first present to myself. I don’t have it anymore.

“But I didn’t get to go during that time. Being with Mercedes, I didn’t think it was a good look to go at the time.”

He is also yet to learn any Italian. “In all these years, I’ve not managed to learn any other languages,” he admitted. “But of course I will definitely try. I do remember when I was karting in Italy I was able to pick up a few lines, so hopefully that will come back to me pretty quickly.”

While the announcement of his move to Ferrari has generated huge interest, Hamilton said he is determined to make the most of his final year as a Mercedes driver.

“This chapter is still not finished,” he said. “I’m still 100% focussed on delivering from this team this year and trying to finish on a high.

“That’s a big, big goal for me and the team and I have absolute faith in everything, everyone in the team and what we’ve done so far I think is great. So I really hope that we are somehow able to close the gap to the Red Bulls somehow.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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27 comments on “Schumacher inspired my Ferrari move, Vasseur made it possible – Hamilton”

  1. Sorry to be pedantic, but Grand Prix 2 was based on the 94′ season (I assume Lewis wasn’t in the mod community), and Michael was in the Bennetton B194. You could change the names though, so perhaps he did that. But more likely it was GP3.

    In actual stuff though, I’m happy for him. It’s certainly an exciting decision. Nobody knows how it will pan out, but I guess regardless it’ll be an experience for him. You only get one life and he’s chosen the slightly riskier / interesting option over seeing out his career with Toto & Merc. F1 at timed can seem predictable and repetitive, Lewis to Ferrari is infinitely more interesting than adding yet another race to the calendar or changing sprint formats.

    1. José Lopes da Silva
      23rd February 2024, 15:38

      Pedantic? You’re being 100% accurate. Well, maybe he was in the mod community after all.

      1. I mean, you didn’t have to be in the “mod community.” You didn’t even have to be on the internet at all. Dixons of all places was selling GP2 mod disks that came with all the tools, including GP2Edit, and full season conversions, in their stores at the time (for other games too, obviously).

        It really wasn’t all that obscure, honestly.

    2. What a game it was!

  2. People keep trying to put a positive spin on this move but the truth is that Mercedes only offered Lewis a one year contract and didn’t agree to his terms for an ambassadorship role. In other words, Lewis was pushed out.

    He’s an extremely expensive driver for someone that hasn’t won a race in over two years. There are far cheaper and arguably better options for Mercedes especially when you consider that Lewis has done nothing but publicly complain about the team.

    This is how marriages end.

    1. Mercedes only offered Lewis a one year contract

      That’s quite some funny “truth” when it was multi-year with an option Hamilton took to leave, kind of makes the rest of your post moot.

    2. Mercedes probably won’t win very much after Lewis leaves anyways, especially if Ferrari keep moving upwards in their current trajectory. In fact the only way Mercedes win in 2025 is if Toto paid off the FIA to accept Mercedes preferred formula for power units moving forward. Porsche will probably move back to Red Bull after they git rid of Horner, and develop quite a nice package for that team, assuming Red Bull let Porsche run the operations in Horner’s place. Ferrari will most likely be the second or most competitive entry following Red Bull’s decisions. Toto deserves a driver he can control, and politically correct engineers who take years to admit they are wrong.

      1. and I am pretty sure thats why the plaintiff against Horner went straight to Austrian leadership, and the Dutch media is being used to put out negative-coercive allegations (which Ford Co. cannot be associated with). When Marko says Horner has done a good job, its not personal, its just business, and Red Bull are scared of doing business with Ford, and know that Porsche has the goods.

    3. I’m not a Hamilton fan, but come on. He hasn’t won a race in two years because the team haven’t produced a car good enough.

      And yes, I know Russell has won. Once.

    4. People keep trying to put a negative spin on this move. Mercedes gave Lewis a 2 year deal and he is leaving after one. Who knows what the ambassadorial role was or wasn’t? So no, he wasn’t pushed out, he left.

      The day the deal with Ferrari was announced, it was the biggest story in world sport and Ferrari’s value shot up by nearly $7 billion and merchandise sales alone will pay his salary. Ferrari are in profit 12 months before Lewis even arrives. Would far cheaper drivers do that?

      A 7 time WDC knows what winning cars need. He told merc designers and they ignored him, for two years and he was proven right. That’s what he brings to Ferrari, that experience and know how

  3. Coventry Climax
    23rd February 2024, 13:57

    LH won his 7th in 2020, not his 3rd.

  4. When I hear about Hamilton emulating Schumacher, what I think about is actually Schumacher going to Mercedes after his Ferrari career was over.

    Schumacher – 5 WDC’s with Ferrari – went to Mercedes at 41 years old
    Hamilton – 6 WDC’s with Mercedes – goes to Ferrari at 40 years old

    1. True, although Schumacher had been out of F1 for three years by the time he joined Mercedes, not having raced anything in the meantime, and having already started to decline in form even before his first retirement. Hamilton, by contrast, will be moving straight from one team to the other, and seems nearly as strong as ever.

      1. Schumacher was still ace at the end of 2006. The Japan engine blow was a het ge title desider.

        1. Even without the engine failure in Japan, Alonso would still have been champion by one point. And of course Alonso lost points due to mechanical failure as well (Hungary and Italy).

      2. I’d also say schumacher was still in top form in 2006 and would’ve won both 2007 and 2008 (as in outperformed raikkonen) had he stayed, even at 39.

        1. I doubt a “top form” Schumacher would have lost the title to any driver in an inferior car, but Alonso beat him despite the Renault being slower (and Ferrari getting an awful lot of help with things like mass dampers and penalties for phantom impeding).

          McLaren were much closer to Ferrari in 2007/8 than Renault were in 2006, so I can’t see an alternative universe in which a continuing Schumacher won either of those championships.

  5. Difference between him and Michael is that Michael left a winning car to go Ferrari,and that they were in a complete mess.

    1. Excellent point – if I could vote for COTD, this would get my vote.

    2. DC, to be fair, Mercedes were not exactly unstoppable when Hamilton joined them either. When Hamilton left McLaren, an awful lot of people were cock-a-hoop on forums like this saying Hamilton would never win another race or even another pole position.

      1. But they had an unbeatable engine on its way.

  6. Inspired by Michael.
    Childhood Dreams
    They did not listen to me
    No trust in development
    More money

    Al lot of good response in Lewis book.

    1. To Osnola,
      You missed one point, SLH has guaranteed himself with two years’ worth of constant boring headlines. That is what he really craves.
      Cannot wait to see the Ferraris painted black!

      1. Cannot wait to see the Ferraris painted black!

        Especially the visors, long ago Felipe was crying for a white visor, he could not see anything. But things have changed.

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