Hamilton acknowledges he'll be on his own at Ferrari

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 on the grid. 04.05.2024. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 6, Miami Grand Prix, Miami, Florida, USA, Sprint and Qualifying Day. - www.xpbimages.com, EMail: requests@xpbimages.com © Copyright: Charniaux / XPB Images
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Lewis Hamilton is leaving Mercedes after 11 years at the end of the current season to take up a new seat at Ferrari - and it's beginning to sink in that he'll be starting from scratch at Maranello.

The current Mercedes set-up has largely been formed around Hamilton and there are few members of staff at their Brackley headquarters that Hamilton hasn't met and worked with. That couldn't be further from the situation next year.

Although he knows several of the key members of Ferrari senior management, it's another matter entirely on the shop floor where there will be almost no one he's used to working with in the past.

Ferrari team principal Frederic Vasseur was boss of ART Grand Prix in 2006 when Hamilton clinched the GP2 championship that secured his progression to F1 with McLaren the following season.

And Hamilton's friendship with Ferrari chairman John Elkann is believed to have been key in the negotiations that resulted in Hamilton deciding to walk away from Mercedes after this season in order to head to the Scuderia in 2025.

“I know John really well, we met years ago in the Google camp," Hamilton told PlanetF1.com last year. "I went to a Google camp in Sicily. That’s when our friendship started and we’ve always remained in touch.

“I’ve known Fred since 2005 and we’ve always had a really great relationship and we would talk often," he continued. "I was in his team, then I came to F1 and you have less contact with the F2 series.

Circuit atmosphere - Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 fans in the grandstand. 21.04.2024. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 5, Chinese Grand Prix, Shanghai, China, Race Day. - www.xpbimages.com, EMail: requests@xpbimages.com © Copyright: Coates / XPB Images

“But since he’s been back [in F1] we’ve met, we’ve had [talked] more, we’ve travelled together with Toto [Wolff, Hamilton's current boss at Mercedes].

Hamilton will be joined at Ferrari by ex-Mercedes man Loic Serra who has just been appointed head of chassis performance engineering. Also at Ferrari is Jock Clear who worked with Hamilton at Mercedes as performance engineer in 2013/4.

But Hamilton’s Mercedes contract contains a so-called “no-poaching” clause which precludes him from trying to take any of his current entourage with him to Italy meaning he'll have to build a new support system from scratch,

“I don’t think that makes a big difference personally to me," Hamilton told the media in Imola, brushing off concerns. "Obviously I worked with Loic for many, many years so I have a great working relationship with him.

“And my first number two, Jock, works with that team," he added. "They’re the only two I think I know particularly well, as well as Fred. That’s really as far as it goes.”

(L to R): Charles Leclerc (MON) Ferrari with Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1. 02.03.2024. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 1, Bahrain Grand Prix, Sakhir, Bahrain, Race Day. - www.xpbimages.com, EMail: requests@xpbimages.com © Copyright: Staley / XPB Images

However Jock Clear has moved on since he worked at Ferrari and now has a close working relationship with Charles Leclerc, who will be Hamilton's team mate and therefore most important rival next year.

But this isn't the first time Hamilton has risked anything by making a leap of faith into the unknown.

Many viewed his departure from McLaren to join the new Mercedes works team in 2013 as brave verging on reckless, but winning six world championships with the Silver Arrows has certainly vindicated his decision.

However Hamilton is without a race win since the 2021 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix and is currently only P7 in this year's drivers championship standings putting him behind his team mate George Russell.

With Hamilton turning 40 before he drivers his first race for Ferrari the question is whether he's left it too late to find success in this latest and likely last stage of his F1 career, especially starting with a blank slate.

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