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AUSTIN, TEXAS - OCTOBER 21: Sprint winner Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing shakes hands with Second placed Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes in parc ferme after the Sprint ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of United States at Circuit of The Americas on October 21, 2023 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Hamilton to Ferrari stroke of genius, Verstappen irreplaceable

AUSTIN, TEXAS - OCTOBER 21: Sprint winner Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing shakes hands with Second placed Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes in parc ferme after the Sprint ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of United States at Circuit of The Americas on October 21, 2023 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

So huge was the Formula 1 News of the Century aka Lewis Hamilton ditching Mercedes for Ferrari, that even academics are weighing into the debate as Max Verstappen apparently contemplates a move away from Red Bull, at their peril it seems.

Hamilton to Ferrari only happens in 2025, however until then the stunning development for F1 is likely to remain headline news because a seat is now available at Mercedes that needs filling. While there are several candidates for team boss Toto Wolff to choose from by far the top of the list would be Verstappen.

Amid the controversial Christian Horner ‘sex-texting’ saga and Jos Verstappen’s subsequent comments and actions, namely meeting with Wolff in Jeddah, prompted speculation The Verstappens could be planning a move.

This makes for a very intriguing season as more than half the grid are out of contract come the end of 2024, including Australian Grand Prix winner Carlos Sainz, who is jobless since Ferrari opted to hang on to homegrown Charles Leclerc and bring Hamilton on board at the Spaniard’s expense.

Clearly, this has captured the imagination of onlookers beyond the F1 fan community, including sports finance expert and professor of economics at Sheffield Business School, Dr Rob Wilson who weighed in on the impact of Hamilton’s move to Ferrari and Verstappen’s possible defection away from Red Bull to Mercedes.

The prospect being debated across F1 forums, is the Dutch triple F1 World Champion walking away from Red Bull amid a period of dominance seldom seen in F1. Despite the background ‘noise’ of the Horner saga, they still remain a winning machine with the benchmark-setting car in the RB20.

That’s not going to change overnight despite the ‘burning brakes’ blip at the Australian Grand Prix that derailed his attempt to win 11 races in a row. That did not happen but is hardly a sign of things to come. Expect business as usual in Japan for RBR and the World Champs.

Red Bull will have to find the next Max

SUZUKA, JAPAN - OCTOBER 02: Max Verstappen of Netherlands and Scuderia Toro Rosso attends a seat fitting ahead of the Japanese Formula One Grand Prix at Suzuka Circuit on October 2, 2014 in Suzuka, Japan. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Max Verstappen horner best

Starting with the speculation, speaking to the media team at Grosvenor Sport, Professor Wilson said: “With Max Verstappen and Red Bull, you have an increasingly important link between your playing talent or your star athletes and the prospects of the organisation.

“Red Bull will have to find the next Max and I can’t see anybody putting their hands on the wheel to take over from him. Verstappen can’t be replaced commercially at Red Bull but, on the other hand, Lewis Hamilton to Ferrari is a masterstroke,” insisted Wilson.

“Hamilton’s move to Ferrari looks like a stroke of genius for him because the Mercedes cars are just going backwards and it will have a major impact on sponsorship. Furthermore, Max and Lewis moving will also have a negative impact on that sponsorship and even the commercial value of the teams they are leaving.”

This was well illustrated on 1 February when it became official [no one in the F1 world saw it coming] that Hamilton and Ferrari had agreed terms. Reportedly $100-million a year for as long as they can keep the ‘marriage’ of the sport’s two greatest ‘brands’ going.

Verstappen, Hamilton value likened to Mbappe, Ronaldo and Messi

Blundell: Hamilton will bring calm and control to Ferrari

On the day and the week after the news broke, Ferrari shares gained over $6-billion before stabilising, markedly higher than they were on 29 February. Such was the impact that some speculate that Hamilton’s mega-salary is already covered and he has yet to don a Ferrari race suit let alone race for them.

Wilson likened Hamilton-Ferrari move to the massive sporting deals in other disciplines, including football or soccer for our American readers: “Lionel Messi moved to Inter Miami, which boosted Miami’s franchise value, the brand that Max Verstappen has in Red Bull will be similar, as will Lewis Hamilton moving to Ferrari.”

“Kylian Mbappe moving to Real Madrid would be massive for their brand value like Cristiano Ronaldo going to Saudi Arabia and increasing the value of that brand and so on and so forth, is so really important,” explained Wilson.

Why is F1 booming? No need to be a professor to figure out Netflix triggered a new wave of F1 fans and the current boom, which Wilson touched on too: “Drive to Survive has really kind of renewed their fortunes in F1 because it’s broken into the American market, which has become quite fanatical about F1 and how it works.

We can expect to see American drivers coming in as well as potential South American drivers, a few more of them because of commercial opportunities that exist in countries like America and Mexico, Argentina,” concluded Prof Wilson.

Currently, Grand Prix races in the Americas include three in the United States namely Miami, Austin and Las Vegas, with others in Canada, Mexico and Brazil.