Vasseur: Hamilton deal ‘came up naturally, step-by-step’

(L to R): Frederic Vasseur (FRA) Ferrari Team Principal with Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1. 29.04.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 4, Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Baku Street Circuit, Azerbaijan, Sprint Day. -, EMail: © Copyright: Batchelor / XPB Images
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Ferrari team boss Fred Vasseur says a long-lasting open channel of communication between himself and Lewis Hamilton led to talks of a deal with the Scuderia coming up naturally, on a step-by-step timeline.

Rumors of Hamilton potentially leaving Mercedes for Ferrari have circulated throughout his career with the German manufacturer, albeit sporadically and with varying degrees of credibility.

However, the occasional speculation appeared to be put to rest last summer when the Briton signed what was believed to be a two-year extension to his deal with Mercedes, and likely his final contract in F1.

It has since come to light that the seven-time world champion’s agreement included an option and a deadline to scrap the second year, which Hamilton effectively did to pave his way to Maranello at the end of 2024.

While it is believed that Ferrari chairman John Elkann was instrumental in luring Hamilton away from Mercedes, the Exor CEO’s efforts were likely successful thanks in large part by the groundwork done by Vasseur.

After all, the Frenchman and Hamilton are well acquainted, with the former mentoring the Briton during his championship winning year in GP2 all the way back in 2006 with Vasseur’s ART Grand Prix outfit.

The friendly relationship was subsequently maintained over the years and proved useful when Vasseur took the reins of the Scuderia at the start of 2023 and talks evolved “naturally” between the pair in the latter part of the year.

“You know that we have had a good relationship for more than 20 years now,” Vasseur told the media on Tuesday at the presentation of Ferrari’s Sf-24 car.

We were always in contact to speak about different things and I think it came up naturally. I don’t know what was this easy or what was not, but it came like this, step-by-step.”

Once discussions gathered pace, Vasseur felt that the chance to sign Hamilton was simply too huge to pass up. The Scuderia boss made clear that there were absolutely no grievances towards Carlos Sainz

“The opportunity of Lewis is something that you have to consider in any case,” he explained. “He’s the guy with the biggest experience, and it’s a huge opportunity for us, it’s nothing to do with Carlos.

“Carlos did a great job last year, I’m sure he will do a great job next year, he’s very professional, we have a very good personal relationship but it is like it is and we have to be focused on the future.”

Vasseur acknowledged however that informing Sainz of Ferrari’s decision was a difficult moment.

“As you can imagine, it was not the easiest call of my life,” he said. “One of the most difficult, with the one with Toto [Wolff, Mercedes Team Principal]!

“I’m fully convinced he’s a very professional driver, that he understands that we have a long season in front of us, it’s a huge opportunity, and I think it’s also a dream to be in this situation, to have the team behind him.

“I think we had a long discussion as you can imagine, but I will be fully supportive of Carlos, he is fully committed, and we know that we have to do the job together, we are together, we are professional.”

As for 2025, Vasseur views Hamilton’s future presence at the House of Maranello as a “good challenge” for Ferrari. But in the interim, all sights are set on the Italian outfit’s upcoming campaign.

“We are sure that he will bring us a decent step for the future and it will be a good challenge for everybody, but we want to be focused on 2024 and we don’t want to have any kind of distraction,” Vasseur said.

“It’s also why we made the announcement so early, because it was important for us to be focused on 2024 for all of the season.

“I am fully convinced that Carlos will be fully dedicated and fully committed until the last lap and the last corner of the season.

“And equally I am sure that all of the team will be fully motivated and fully behind Carlos who did a great job for us so far.

“Now it’s important for us to be focused on 2024. We have a good opportunity, we worked so hard on the project that I don’t want to have any kind of distraction.”

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