Ferrari team principal Fred Vassuer has described his “difficult” call to Mercedes counterpart Toto Wolff to tell him that he had successfully lured Lewis Hamilton to Maranello for 2025.
The Frenchman also admitted that informing Carlos Sainz that he would be replaced by the seven-time world champion next season “was not the easiest call of my life”.
However, speaking at the launch of Ferrari’s new challenger the SF-24 on Tuesday, Vasseur painted the arrival of Hamilton next year as a “huge opportunity” for the Italian team. And one, ultimately, they could not pass up.
There was in general a feeling of positivity and optimism from Ferrari’s main players as they lifted the covers off their new challenger.
Without a drivers’ title since Kimi Raikkonen took advantage of McLaren infighting to sneak home in 2007, these have been lean years for the Scuderia. But their increased competitiveness towards the end of last season has given their fans hope they are on the right track. The signing of the most successful driver the sport has seen has turbo-charged those dreams.
Leclerc: I knew Hamilton was joining
Charles Leclerc, who will partner Hamilton from next season, dismissed reports in Italy that he had been “shocked and disappointed” by the Briton’s arrival. Leclerc said he knew about Hamilton’s move even before he signed his own recent contract extension.
“It takes time [to negotiate a move in Formula One] and I was aware of those discussions before signing my deal, so it didn’t come as a surprise after signing,” said the Monegasque.
“For me that wasn’t part of my discussions. I think it was good the team was transparent, so I knew about it. But it didn’t change anything.
“Lewis is an incredible driver, the most successful in history and with a lot of experience as well which he will bring to the team and obviously to myself, which is a good thing.
“I have had discussions with Lewis especially when everything was announced and official. We texted each other.
“But Carlos has been great and we’ve got one more year together to try and do the best job possible.”
Sainz was philosophical about his ousting. He admitted he had been “surprised” by Hamilton’s move, like the rest of the paddock. But again, he said he had been given fair warning by Ferrari and added that he was sure he would have plenty of options next year. One of them would be to head to Mercedes in a straight swap.
“I think once you are a Ferrari driver, you can go to every team from now on having been at Ferrari,” he said. “If on top of that you add the fact that I won races for Ferrari, I made pole positions, I made podiums, I think I’ve helped this team to move forward up the grid and to be a better team, [then] my overall feeling of these four years is definitely positive.
“I cannot wait to see what the future holds for me because I’m sure there are going to be good things coming.”
Vasseur said it was no slight on Sainz that Ferrari had moved for Hamilton, who will be 40 by the time he joins. It was, he stressed, simply an opportunity too good to pass up.
“It’s a huge opportunity for the team, for sure,” said the Frenchman, who has longstanding relationships with both Hamilton, his former driver, and with Wolff.
“We are sure that it will bring us a decent step for the future. It will be a good challenge for everybody.
“Lewis has the biggest promise of the field, he’s the guy with the biggest experience and it’s a huge opportunity for us. It has nothing to do with Carlos.”