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Could 2024 see Lewis Hamilton wearing Ferrari’s red overalls?
Winless in 2022 and in a car that has plenty to find with Red Bull in 2023, the 38-year-old may be thinking his quest for a record-breaking eighth Word Drivers’ Championship has little chance of happening at the wheel of a Mercedes next season.
Latest reports suggest the Brit, who is out of contract with Mercedes at the end of the year, is likely to be offered a $40 million contract with the Italian team. Of course, that would mean the departure of Charles Leclerc or Carlos Sainz, and both are contracted to drive for Ferrari until the end of 2024.
However, history shows Ferrari has never been afraid to pay massive redundancy money to get the driver they want behind the wheel of one of its cars. A case in point is the reputed £20 million Kimi Raikkonen was paid in 2010 not to see out the final year of his contract.
Similarly, Ferrari has habitually signed World Champions from other teams to its squad. Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso are the most recent examples. Michael Schumacher and Alain Prost did so in the 1980s and 1990s.
If Hamilton does receive the predicted offer and Ferrari can dispose of one of its drivers the question is, who would it be? Sainz has won just one race for the Prancing Horse, and that is his only victory in 167 race starts. Leclerc, only 25, has won just five races for Ferrari during his four-and-a-half years at the wheel.
Next question, who would replace Hamilton at Mercedes? Mick Schumacher is the team’s reserve driver. But, as the Haas team dropped him in 2022 due to disappointing results – and a lot of crashes – maybe they would look further afield.
So, in an imaginary game of Formula 1 musical chairs, how about Sainz (already a former Toro Rosso, Renault, and McLaren pilot), losing his drive in 2024; Lando Norris taking Hamilton’s place at Mercedes (despite his contract running until the end of 2025) and American Colton Herta joining McLaren?
We would be very surprised if we do not have at least some part of this jigsaw in the correct place when the wheels roll on the first race of the 2024 F1 season.
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