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5 Most Shocking Driver Moves In F1

Following recent news that Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton will be joining Scuderia Ferrari in 2025 on a multi-year contract, follow as LWOS looks back at the most shocking driver moves in F1 history.

Silly season is always looked forward to, as there’s always at least one story that creates a buzz. However, some silly season stories made the world stop. We discuss them below, with some ending in triumphs while others in regret.

1. Hamilton from Mercedes to Ferrari

As of two days ago, it has been officially confirmed by all parties involved that Lewis Hamilton will be leaving Mercedes to join Ferrar in 2025.

For the past couple of months, possibly years, Hamilton has been talking about wanting to retire at Mercedes. Looking back at how successful his time at Mercedes has been, it was a decision that no one could question – especially considering that the Brit tops all the records.

As of 31st August 2023, Hamilton has signed a contract extension with Mercedes, keeping him with the Silver Arrows until the end of the 2025 season. No one had expected the 7-time champion to be involved in silly season until at least the end of the 2025 season.

Ferrari have not won a single title – Drivers or Constructors – since the 2008 season when they won the Constructors’ title. Interestingly, that was the year Hamilton won his first Drivers’ Championship. Each time since then, Ferrari have always fallen short of both titles, despite getting close several times.

Whether Hamilton will be the one to bring glory back to Maranello is a tale yet to be told come 2025. Surely, a positive 2024 for Ferrari will put a smile on Hamilton’s face, as it will look like he has made the right decision.

2. Hamilton from McLaren to Mercedes

Hamilton’s move from Mercedes to Ferrari is not the first shocking move the driver has made. The first time he made jaws down was back at the end of 2012 when he announced that he would be joining Mercedes in 2013, replacing Michael Schumacher who would be retiring from the sport.

When Brawn rebranded to Mercedes in 2010, they, had a slow first few years. Mercedes finished P4 in the Consttructors’ Championship in both 2010 and 2011 but fell to P5 in 2012. McLaren on the other hand had been P2 in both 2010 and 2011 but were only a few points away from P2 in 2012. If anyone looked to be getting into a title fight anytime soon, it was definitely McLaren, not Mercedes.

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But with the new regulations coming into play in 2014, Hamilton saw something in Mercedes that not many could see. Much to everyone’s surprise, Hamilton didn’t even have to wait until 2014 to prove that he had made the right decision. In his first season as a Mercedes driver – 2013 – Mercedes finished P2 in the standings, with McLaren dropping down to P5.

By the time the new era of F1 started in 2014, Mercedes delivered the package to beat. 6 Drivers’ Championships and 82 wins later, Hamilton clearly made the right decision despite everyone’s doubts.

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3. Ricciardo from Red Bull to Renault

Daniel Ricciardo got his promotion from Toro Rosso to Red Bull in the 2014 season. His first season in Red Bull was successful. So much so, that he finished higher in the standings than the then reigning World Champion Sebastian Vettel. Ricciardo finished the season in P3, whilst Vettel finished in P5.

Vettel moved to Ferrari in 2015, and Ricciardo gained a new teammate in Daniil Kyvyat. But in true Red Bull fashion, he had a new teammate soon enough. Four races into the 2016 season, Daniil Kvyat was replaced by 18-year-old Toro Rosso driver Max Verstappen. Verstappen immediately proved his place, and Red Bull had two strong drivers.

Tensions rose within the team, and there were questions surrounding Ricciardo’s future at Red Bull. His departure from the team was somewhat expected, however, a move to Renault in 2019 was what turned heads.

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This is a decision that is widely considered to have been the start of Ricciardo’s ‘downfall’.

In 2019, Red Bull and Renault finished P3 and P5 respectively. For 2020, Renault made no progress, whilst Red Bull climbed up to P2. Unimpressed with the Renault, Ricciardo made the switch to McLaren. Despite bringing McLaren their first race win since 2012, the Aussie had a tough two years at the team. He was eventually dropped before his contract ran out, with rookie Oscar Piastri taking his place.

4. Sainz to replace Vettel at Ferrari

Sebastian Vettel completed a dream by joining Ferrari in 2015. However, his time at Ferrari wasn’t what he had hoped it would be.

After two slow seasons, Ferrari stepped up their performances and gave Sebastian Vettel a title contender from 2017 through to 2019. Vettel contested in title fights with Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton in the 2017 and 2018 seasons. Unfortunately for the German driver, poor team strategies, driver errors and being outdeveloped by Mercedes ultimately contributed to Hamilton clinching the title three years in a row. Poor performances by Vettel in 2019, despite having a good package underneath him left him out of the 2019 title fight for the most part.

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Since being paired with Charles Leclerc in 2019 through to 2020, Vettel was often outperformed by the young Monegasque driver. It was a difficult two years for Vettel to say the least. So much so, that at the end of the 2020 season, Ferrari announced that they would be replacing the 4-time champion with then McLaren driver Carlos Sainz for the 2020 season. Vettel was unaware of this decision until it hit the media.

Vettel left Ferrari after collecting 14 wins, 12 poles and 55 podiums, a perfect Ferrari story never really coming to fruition. Since Sainz joined Ferrari he has had 2 wins, 5 poles and 16 podiums. He has the 2024 season left to add to his tally, with his time at Ferrari coming to an end following Hamilton’s signing. Sainz’s future is still unclear.

5. Schumacher from Benetton to Ferrari

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Michael Schumacher joined Ferrari in 1996. He had left a strong team – Benetton – to join Ferrari who at that point hadn’t been in a title fight since 1990. Schuchamher had just won 2 Drivers’ Championships in a row with Benetton, so naturally, a move to an appealing Ferrari was bound to shock the world.

Much to everyone’s surprise though, Ferrari finished P2, whilst Benetton finished P3. It might have only been by 2 points, but it was a statement nonetheless. Over the next 3 years, Ferrari kept making steady progress, maintaining P2, and even became Constructors’ Champions in 1999. Meanwhile, Benetton had become a midfield team.

Schumacher won his first title in red in 2000, making himself a 3-time champion. By the end of 2004, Schumacher was a 7-time World Champion, rightfully earning legend status in the sport.

A move to Ferrari ended up being the perfect one for Schumacher. Could Hamilton land the same fate?

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