Hamilton: Ferrari move ‘wouldn’t have happened’ without Vasseur

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Lewis Hamilton had admitted that Fred Vasseur’s presence at the helm of Ferrari was a crucial factor in convincing him to undertake his “huge” challenge with the Scuderia.

Hamilton was expected to conclude his career in Formula 1 with Mercedes, his surrogate family since 2013 with whom he enjoyed six of his seven world titles.

But a change of heart at the end of last year decided the 39-year-old to opt out of the second year of his contract with the Brackley squad and commit to a sensational multi-year contract with Ferrari.

As it turns out, Hamilton and Vasseur’s shared past played a critical part in the seven-time world champion's blockbuster transfer.

Hamilton's journey with Vasseur began in 2005, back when the young Brit was still carving his path in junior categories. Vasseur, then heading the ASM F3 team, took a chance on the talented driver, and the gamble paid off handsomely. Hamilton dominated the European F3 championship that year, showcasing his raw potential.

Their collaboration continued the following season, with Vasseur's team rebranded as ART GP. Under his guidance, Hamilton conquered the competitive GP2 championship, further solidifying his reputation as a future star.

This early success and shared history laid the groundwork for a strong personal connection between the two.

Fast forward to 2023, Vasseur took the helm at Ferrari, igniting whispers of a potential reunion with Hamilton. The rumors weren't unfounded. Vasseur, aware of Hamilton's specific contract with Mercedes and yearning for a fresh challenge, saw an opportunity to bring a legend to the Prancing Horse.

“I've got a great relationship with Fred,” said Hamilto, speaking to the media in Bahrain.

“Obviously I raced with him in F2 and we had amazing success in F3, and also in GP2. That's really where the foundation of our relationship started. We always remained in touch.

“I thought that he was going to be an amazing team manager at some stage and progress to F1, but at the time, he wasn't interested in that.

“It was really cool to see him step into the Alfa team. Then when he got the job at Ferrari, I was just so happy for him.

“I think just the stars aligned, I think it really wouldn't have happened without him. So I'm really grateful and really excited about the work that he's doing there.”

Hamilton said that when he signed his contract extension with Mercedes last August, he had no second thoughts about his two-year commitment to the team.
"Obviously in the summer, I re-signed and at that time, I saw my future at Mercedes," he explained.

"But an opportunity came up in the new year and I decided to take it, it was the hardest decision I've ever had to make.

"I've been with Mercedes for about 26 years, they've supported me and we've had an absolutely incredible journey together.

"We've created history within the sport, and it is something I take a lot of pride in and I am very proud of what we've achieved.

"But ultimately, I'm writing my story, and I felt like this would be the time to start a new chapter.”

Joining Ferrari isn't just about driving another car; it's about joining forces with motorsport royalty. The Italian outfit’s rich history, steeped in legendary drivers, iconic victories, and unparalleled passion, held a powerful attraction for Hamilton.

“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 car and you wonder what it would be like to be surrounded by the red.

“You go to the Italian GP, and you see a sea of red Ferrari fans, and you can only stand in awe of that. It's a team that's not had like huge success, really, since mostly from Michael's days, but since 2007.

“I saw it as a huge challenge. Without a doubt, even as a kid, I used to play in [computer game] GP2 as Michael in that car. as my foot in that car. It definitely is a dream, and I'm really, really excited about it.”

Oddly, Hamilton admitted that he has never set foot at Maranello, even as the personal owner of several Ferrari road cars.

"I have not,” he said. “I bought my first Ferrari in 2010 I think, as a 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.”

Asked if he was planning to learn Italian he said: “In all these years, I've not managed to learn any other languages. But of course, I will definitely try.

“I do remember when I was karting in Italy, and I was able to pick up a few lines. And so hopefully that will come back to me pretty quickly.”

With an action-packed 24 races ahead of him, Hamilton assured that his total and undivided focus is on Mercedes.

“Just to go back to the new chapter, this chapter is still not finished,” he said. “I'm still 100% focused on delivering for this team this year, and trying to finish on a high.

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