Lewis Hamilton was not present, but he was in spirit, and his name and reputation hung over Ferrari’s car launch at Maranello on Tuesday.
So obvious was the notion of the seven-time 2025 world champion’s imminent arrival that the highly capable Spaniard Carlos Sainz, whose seat Hamilton will occupy, did not mention his name even once in the media call he made via Zoom. .
Sainz, 29, was asked if he had spoken to his replacement since news broke earlier this month of the Briton’s departure from Mercedes to drive in red, but he tactfully avoided the question. Ferrari’s media woman politely insisted that no further reference to the “unmentionable” (my words, not hers) would be tolerated.
We have a year left in this evasion and it won’t be easy for anyone involved to deal with it. The transfer won’t be easy to smooth out at Mercedes either, with 12 months of discomfort ahead as George Russell moves quietly, or not, from heir to king.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc (left), team principal Frederic Vasseur (centre) and Carlos Zainz Jr (right) were photographed ahead of the unveiling of the team’s new car for the upcoming F1 season.
Lewis Hamilton, who will join Ferrari ahead of the 2025 season and take Sainz’s seat, was not present at the presentation.
The Italian team hopes its new car, the SF-24, will help them win their first constructors’ championship since 2008.
For Sainz he has one year to fulfill his dream of winning the title where he is, his future beyond that is uncertain. He drove the new car, the scarlet rival of the year to mighty world champions Red Bull, earlier in the day around the test track adjacent to the Fiorano factory, which, before his death in 1988 at age 90, was within sight and earshot of founder Enzo Ferrari. cabin.
Five laps for Sainz; three for Charles Leclerc, who may have been as bewildered as his team-mate by the news that Hamilton was on his way. Leclerc, 26, was pointed out as the future of Ferrari, a young talent from Monaco backed by them for greatness.
He has signed a new contract to be with the Scuderia until the end of 2029, a contract long enough, perhaps, to calm his inevitable anxiety about the arrival of the 39-year-old Hamilton. Leclerc, a five-time race winner, remains the long-term player. hope.
The three men carry weight on their shoulders. Because Ferrari has a mystique in Italy and, more broadly, in the world of motorsport. If you become their world champion (the first since Kimi Raikkonen beat Hamilton on his unforgettable debut in 2007), it would be like being a World Cup-winning England coach. That may be a slight exaggeration, but not much.
In early February it was confirmed that Hamilton had agreed a deal worth more than £40m to join Ferrari from Mercedes.
But Sainz, speaking to the media, revealed that he had been given “time to digest” the news that Hamilton would replace him.
As a Ferrari star, you get to the heart of the tifosi, and if Hamilton gets off to a good start, he energizes the team to work to his needs like all great champions do, and plays on the fans’ sensibilities with some In words As an Italian, although he unquestionably will, he could still be their greatest hero, the man who won his eighth world title with the most legendary brand.
On Hamilton’s arrival, Sainz, the only non-Red Bull winner during Max Verstappen’s rapid march to title glory last year, triumphing in Singapore, said: “For my part, you can understand that I found out about the news a little before anyone else and I had a few weeks to reflect and prepare and a few weeks also to prepare for the launch of the car and the first race of the season (in Bahrain on March 2).
“That gave me a little time to digest it, draw my own conclusions and focus on the 2024 season.
‘I have received many messages of support for which I would like to thank the F1 world and my friends at home. All of them have been very supportive and encouraged me a lot.
‘My next team, I don’t know yet and I have time to decide when it will happen next. There are many options out there.
‘I’m approaching the three or four most important years of my career and I want to make sure I’m in the right place.
“I’m going to listen to all the options, so when I make the decision I have to give myself enough time and enough information.”
Leclerc (left) has signed a new contract to remain with the Scuderia until the end of 2029
Leclerc added that he believes Ferrari’s new car is more drivable than last year’s model.
Mail Sport revealed Ferrari’s proposals to Hamilton last May, with Leclerc acknowledging: “This kind of deal doesn’t happen overnight. It’s been going on for a while and I was aware of those discussions before signing the contract, so which was not a surprise.
“Obviously Lewis is an incredible driver, the most successful ever, with a lot of experience that he brings to the team, which is a good thing.”
‘I’ve had conversations with Lewis, especially when everything was announced and official. We text each other.
Pre-season testing will take place next week in Bahrain, where we will get the first clues as to whether anyone can match the Red Bull monsters. For now, Leclerc says the car is more drivable than last year’s. He also points out the optimism within the field. A reason, along with the appeal, history and prestige of Ferrari, why Hamilton has signed up.