Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
April 16, 2024
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Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton is set to leave Mercedes at the end of this season. 

When we signed off on our last Hopkins Hot Lap article, we were expecting a relatively quiet news cycle, with very few new developments. Instead, we have been inundated left and right with breaking news in Formula 1 (F1). From early silly-season updates to contract extensions and team principal allegations, there is no shortage of intriguing updates in the F1 world. Here’s a quick recap on the latest bits of Formula 1 off-season chatter.

Lewis Hamilton to Ferrari

In a shocking turn of events, seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton will leave his current team Mercedes-AMG and join Scuderia Ferrari for the 2025 season. After 12 seasons with the German team and seven World Driver Championships, the British driver has now completed a shock move to the Italian outfit. After a rather calm beginning to the off-season — all 20 drivers were continued in their seats at the same teams — Hamilton’s decision has now set off a game of musical chairs, as a coveted spot at Mercedes has now opened up for contention in 2025.

It’s officially goodbye to Carlos Sainz 

Despite being the sole non-Red Bull race winner in 2023, Carlos Sainz Jr’s time at Ferrari is now set to end in 2024. The Spaniard had a good run at the Scuderia, with two victories and two top-five championship finishes in three seasons. After the startling announcement that he was to be replaced by Hamilton in 2025, Sainz put out a statement on social media announcing he was fully committed to give his all for Ferrari and the Tifosi in their last season. During an interview with Sky Italia, Sainz insisted that he was “not disappointed” and that after “experiencing Ferrari from the inside,” he was well aware that changes were on their way.

It’s important to note that Sainz is widely rumored to have a future at Audi, who are set to replace Stake/Sauber in 2026; this option is only looking more likely in the wake of his father’s fourth Dakar win in an Audi vehicle. However, in order to remain in F1 for the 2025 season, he will now have to find a one-year contract — seeing as 10+ contracts are set to expire in 2024, he will have a multitude of options. 

The empty Mercedes seat

Many drivers have been rumored to replace Hamilton at Mercedes, but none have had the amount of speculation that Alex Albon has had. Albon has had a phenomenal year with Williams in 2023, scoring 27 out of 28 points and carrying the team to seventh place in the Constructors’ Championship. Although he is contracted to the Williams team until the end of 2025, many believe that Albon will follow in the same steps as current Mercedes driver George Russell, rising up to the Brackley-based outfit.

Other drivers — including Carlos Sainz Jr, as well as current Alpine driver Esteban Ocon — have been linked to the seat as well. One surprising name that has been thrown around is current Mercedes F1 junior driver Andrea Kimi Antonelli. At only 17 years old, Antonelli has had an illustrious karting career — placing first in the CIK-FIA European Championship in 2020 and 2021. He’s been dominating the field in single seaters as well, winning the 2022 Italian F4 Championship and the 2022 ADAC Formula 4 Championship, among others. However, only time will tell if Antonelli has what it takes to succeed in F1. All eyes will be on him as he competes in Formula 2 with Prema Racing.

Guenther Steiner out of Haas after almost a decade

After several years of underwhelming performance, Steiner was axed from the Haas F1 Team; previous trackside engineering director Ayao Komatsu will serve as the new team principal. The decision was taken by team owner Gene Haas, who informed Steiner and other team members sometime between Christmas and the New Year. Driver Nico Hülkenberg has expressed his “shock” at the decision, complimenting his former team principal for “opening the door” to him, as well as emphasizing Steiner’s importance to the team. This announcement came after Haas finished 10th in last year’s constructors, a disappointing result that led Gene Haas to admit he was “embarrassed” by his team’s performance. 

Christian Horner investigated by Red Bull: What we know

Last week, the Motorsport world was rocked by information that Red Bull Racing (RBR) team principal Christian Horner was being investigated over allegations of misconduct and inappropriate behavior. Although fans and news outlets have been speculating on the nature of the allegations, there has yet to be any confirmation by the RBR F1 team, its parent company Red Bull or Horner himself. A hearing on Friday, Feb. 9th ended without a definite conclusion after the Englishman was reportedly questioned by a lawyer for “several hours.” At present, we can confirm that he has denied the allegations against him.

In the background, reports of a split between director Helmut Marko and Christian Horner have been reignited by these latest developments, although Marko has also remained silent on the issue. As Red Bull reportedly plans to continue with their car launch on Feb. 15th, the decision on Christian Horner’s fate is said to “remain in the balance.”

What’s next for Mercedes?

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has repeatedly told the press that losing Lewis Hamilton is not a deterrent for the future of Mercedes, and the team was preparing for a future without Hamilton at the helm anyway. 

Many speculations around the nature of contract negotiations between the Brackley-based team and Hamilton have emerged. One report is that Hamilton requested a three-year contract, as well as an ambassadorship position for the Mercedes brand after he retired. However, Mercedes only offered him a one-year deal, with the option of a further extension for both the team and Hamilton. Mercedes reportedly declined giving Hamilton an ambassadorship position as well. 

Ferrari is said to have countered this deal by giving Hamilton an investment into his own charitable organizations, including Mission 44, an organization that focuses on championing diversity and empowering young children in school. 


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