Formula 1 journalist Lawrence Barretto knows that Ferrari CEO John Elkann called Lewis Hamilton several times in the 2023 season, but that his last call was perfectly timed. According to Barretto, Hamilton asked Mercedes for a three-year deal, but the team only wanted to offer one year. Ultimately, both parties reached a compromise, but Hamilton still received an offer from Elkann that he could not refuse.
According to Barretto, Hamilton wanted a three-year deal with the German racing team. There were also rumors that the Briton wanted to become Mercedes ambassador, but that the Mercedes leadership did not agree to this. “Hamilton had been talking to Ferrari management for some time,” Barretto begins in the F1 Nation podcast. “In Monaco, Elkann said that they would like Lewis to join Ferrari and that they could offer him the world, but Lewis said no,” the journalist continues. “Eventually, Elkann called him again heading into the fall and told him they could offer him a multi-year deal and then some.”
The Ferrari CEO called just after Hamilton signed a multi-year deal with Mercedes, but prior to the signed paperwork the two parties had a discussion about the length of the contract. Hamilton appears to have asked for a three-year deal, but Mercedes only wanted to give him one year. “In the end, Hamilton signed a two-year deal with exit clauses,” Barretto said. ‘I can imagine that he was disappointed, also about the turn of events, and then Elkann called him again. That’s when Lewis saw the possibilities that were being put on the table. Elkann reiterated that Ferrari wanted him badly, and everyone wants to be loved and wanted, right?’
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‘Now he can do what his hero never got the chance to do’
Hamilton saw an opportunity to continue his hunt for an eighth title at Ferrari. “And now he can drive in red like his hero Senna wanted, but never got the chance to do,” Barretto continues. “Lewis never lied about wanting to end his career at Mercedes, but at some point you just have to start thinking,” said the Brit. “I also think this is the right time,” says Italian Formula 1 journalist Robert Chinchero. ‘Two engineers of a very high level are coming to Maranello to develop the car. The target will be 2026, until then it will be difficult to compete with Red Bull.”
The Italian emphasizes that this is great for Ferrari team boss Frédéric Vasseur, who knows the seven-time world champion well. ‘For Vasseur it must be some kind of victory. Having Lewis on your team is equal to having the best engineers. From this perspective it is a fantastic deal for Ferrari.’ On February 1, Ferrari announced not only the arrival of Hamilton, but also the departure of Carlos Sainz. The question remains where the Spaniard will end up, as he is also linked with a switch to Audi. He would have to go to Sauber in 2025 or sign a one-year contract somewhere.
‘Mercedes needs someone for a year’
Barretto assumes that Sainz will have plenty of options. In addition to Audi, he is also linked to Aston Martin, a seat next to Max Verstappen at Red Bull Racing, Williams, and now also Mercedes. ‘He lost his seat at Ferrari to one of the best drivers, so he doesn’t have to be disappointed in that respect. He also knows Toto well, and he can provide the consistency that Mercedes is looking for,” Barretto said. “But he can also go to Aston Martin, where they already know how to take podiums, and he can also go to Williams, because look what James Vowles has already done there,” the journalist emphasizes.
Mercedes can also pick a talent from its talent pool, although Wolff did not want to speculate about that yet. “I think they need someone who can fill in for a year, not a young driver, but maybe someone like Alonso or Vettel, until Antonelli is ready,” said Tom Clarkson. “I don’t think Toto will immediately put Kimi in that Mercedes,” answers Barretto. ‘They’ll probably put him in the Williams first. They want a driver for 2025 who can give them good feedback, so Sainz or Albon, I think that will be good for the team.’