LEWIS HAMILTON reportedly revealed plans to join Ferrari NINE years before the move was announced.
Last week, the seven-time world champion rocked the world of Formula One when he triggered a break clause in his Mercedes contract to head to Ferrari for the 2025 season.
EPALewis Hamilton first revealed his intention to join Ferrari at a Tokyo bar in 2015[/caption]
PAHamilton signed a £100m deal to join Ferrari in 2025[/caption]
Bishop lifted the lid on a chat between the pair while at F1-favourite Lex Tokyo Lounge Bar in the Roppongi district of Tokyo following the 2015 Japanese Grand Prix.
Then McLaren‘s communications director, he explained how he was drinking some beers with his colleagues and mulling over the race at Suzuka, where McLaren drivers Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso had been lapped by race winner Hamilton.
Hamilton – who had only departed McLaren for the Silver Arrows three years prior – eventually arrived at the bar with Mercedes engineers before heading over to chat with Bishop and co.
The pair soon found themselves in a one-on-one chat, where Hamilton confessed to wanting to drive for Ferrari one day.
Bishop asked: “Do you think you’ll stay at Merc until you retire?”
To which Hamilton responded: “Well, what I’d really like to do, one day, is drive for Ferrari…
“Yeah. That would be a great way to end my F1 career, wouldn’t it? To win championships for McLaren, Mercedes and Ferrari?”
The bar has since closed down, but Hamilton’s dream to race for the Scuderia clearly never did.
Hamilton’s multi-year contract at the Prancing Horse could prove to be the final transfer of his F1 career given comments he made in the chat.
In the chat Hamilton also ruled out ever returning to McLaren, stating: “I don’t know. Never go back, they say, don’t they?
“Sometimes you just feel you’ve been somewhere too long and you need a change.”
Alpine driver Pierre Gasly revealed he knew about the move for some time.
Speaking at the launch of Alpine’s 2024 F1 car, he said: “Obviously, he’s been a long time with Mercedes, but I was aware of some talks with Ferrari.
“Ultimately, he’s towards the end of his career. So it was either now or never.
WHO COULD REPLACE HAMILTON AT MERCEDES?
Mercedes will have a vacant seat for 2025.
Here, SunSport’s F1 correspondent Ben Hunt looks at FIVE potential candidates who could replace him and partner George Russell in the Silver Arrows.
Oscar Piastri – McLaren have sewn up Lando Norris to a new long-term contract that should (in theory) put him out of Mercedes’ reach. However, they are yet to tie down his teammate Piastri, 22. The Aussie has an excellent record and won the Formula 3 and Formula 2 titles before spending a year on the sidelines with Alpine and getting his chance in F1 with McLaren. He impressed on his debut season last year and has the potential to be a world champion.
Daniel Ricciardo – The experienced driver’s future remains in doubt as he bides his time at Red Bull’s B-team. Ricciardo would be low-hassle and offer some stability but by that time he would be 35. It seems unlikely that they would opt for him at this point in his career, but if he has a good season this year, he could come into the reckoning.
Kimi Antonelli – You may not have heard of the Italian, but he is mustard. Still only 17, he has won at all the junior categories and has been part of the Mercedes young driver programme since 2019. This season he has been promoted from F4 to F2, where he has been tipped to shine. A good debut season in F2 could sway Mercedes into taking a risk on him for 2025. Antonelli and his family are close to Mercedes boss Toto Wolff.
Mick Schumacher – Wolff has always been so incredibly supportive of Schumacher and spoken highly of him, that you’d at least expect him to come into consideration. He knows the team from his role as reserve driver and consequently would get up to speed. But speed is also the problem. He was shocking at Haas and if he really was THAT good, he’d still be driving in F1.
Alex Albon – A more-sensible choice would be the London-born Albon. A great guy who is also very quick. He has a fantastic relationship with Russell and would be the low-maintenance quick partnership similar to Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas that swept to successive titles. Albon would take little convincing to join from Williams and Mercedes would not need to pay him half of the £50million they were dishing out to Hamilton.
“I think it was kept secret for quite a long time. I just wish him the best. Obviously, it’s sort of exciting with the driver market, and all of you guys come with it, which is normal.
“But I think ultimately, for the sport, he is the most successful driver of all time joining a new project, a new challenge. I’m sure everybody will follow that very closely.”
Hamilton’s deal at Ferrari is said to be worth a cool £100million.
Fresh reports claim that Hamilton’s future team-mate Charles Leclerc was left “shocked and disappointed” by the move to sign the 39-year-old.
However, this stands in contrast to prior reports claiming he was welcoming to the move and Leclerc naming Hamilton as what he looks for in a team-mate.
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