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He's a business, man
The Money Behind Hamilton's Move to Ferrari
Good morning, Qualifiers!
Because the Lewis Hamilton to Ferrari story is such big news, I wanted to give you a more in-depth look at the deal.
This deal will be a story of one man’s relentless pursuit of pairing the greatest driver of his generation with the most iconic car brand in the world.
It will also go down as a lesson in the power of marketing in the current landscape of Formula 1.
I hope you enjoy.
One thing I ask is that if you find this newsletter interesting, would you share it with someone you think would also enjoy it? Thank you 🙏
Lewis Hamilton, an unparalleled force in the annals of Formula 1, has boldly embarked on a revolutionary journey by joining the prestigious ranks of Scuderia Ferrari.
This momentous decision not only reshapes the very fabric of Formula 1, but also underscores the intricate web of financial intricacies at play.
Hamilton's illustrious career with Mercedes has been characterized by dominance and record-breaking achievements.
Here is a quick look at what Hamilton is bringing to Ferrari on the track:
7x Formula One World Drivers Champion
103 race wins
Combine that with Ferrari's rich history in Formula 1 and its recent performance rejuvenation, and you have set the stage for a high-profile merger.
Ferrari has competed in every F1 World Championship since 1950 and has the most wins in Formula 1 history with 243. Their history is filled with iconic drivers such as Scheckter, Lauda, Raikkonen, Hawthorn, Fangio, Surtees, Ascari, and Schumacher.
But Ferrari hasn't won a Constructors Championship since 2008 (which is ironically the year Lewis Hamilton won his first Driver's Championship) or a Drivers Championship since 2007 (Raikkonen).
Never Say Never
“But they always say, never say never,” said Vasseur.
“I’m talking with Lewis each week or each month for 20 years, so I can’t say that I didn’t speak with Lewis at one stage, as we are always in contact,” said Vasseur.
“It’s true because half of the grid drove for me in the past, and in Baku, I had a discussion with Lewis in the paddock, and it started to go everywhere, but if he signed a contract with me each time that we spoke in the past, it would cost me a fortune.”
According to the F1 Nation podcast, it was mentioned that John Elkann gave Lewis Hamilton a casual ring last May, during the Monaco Grand Prix, telling him, "Lewis, we want you at Ferrari. We can give you everything you're looking for."
Lewis turned him down.
But that casual conversation wasn't the end of it. Elkann was determined.
As winter approached, Elkann contacted Lewis again, with a solid offer for a multi-year contract, spelling out all the details. By then, Lewis had already agreed to a new arrangement with Mercedes, a 1+1 contract, after initially seeking a three-year term. Mercedes had only been willing to commit to a single year, though they eventually settled on the 1+1 setup, which included options for departure.
Barretto speculated that Lewis probably felt slightly disappointed by Mercedes' stance and realized Ferrari was willing to provide him with everything he desired.
And that brings us to where we stand today.
Ferrari's Financial Strength
Amidst growing speculation, the financial health of Ferrari and its strategic ambitions have been crucial in securing Hamilton's services.
Lost in the Hamilton news for many was the Q4 '23 earnings call Ferrari had earlier in the day.
Ferrari's stock soared after crushing another quarter, proving again that it's not just any car maker—it's in a league of its own. Ferrari is a lifestyle, a feeling, and it trades more like a luxury brand than a car company at 42 times 2024 earnings—dwarfing BMW and Mercedes and even outpacing luxury giant LVMH.
Ferrari left Wall Street in the dust with Q4 earnings of $1.75 per share on $1.64 billion in sales, edging past expectations.
Despite shipping fewer cars—3,245, down from last year's 3,327—their sales jumped 11%. Why? Each Ferrari pulled in roughly $506,000, a 14% spike per car, year over year.
It would cost me a fortune.
For 2024, Ferrari is eyeing earnings over $8.10 per share on $6.91 billion in sales, right on target with analysts.
And the investors are all in—Ferrari's shares hit $387.08 midday Thursday, an 11.6% jump, potentially marking a record high since last December. Ferrari's biggest leap in three years overshadows the S&P 500 and Nasdaq's modest gains.
What does this have to do with Hamilton?
What Ferrari Does for Hamilton
Reports from Italy indicate that Hamilton has accepted a significant contract with Ferrari, rumored to be $100 million annually.
Ferrari's ability to finance this deal is supported by its aforementioned solid financial forecast for 2024, with the luxury demand driving stock prices upwards.
Ferrari's President, a long-time admirer of Lewis Hamilton, has always had a direct, friendly, and respectful relationship with him. John Elkann's dream was to bring the celebrated champion to Italy, a vision that became the cornerstone of his plan.
Following Mattia Binotto's departure, Elkann began sculpting his version of Ferrari, appointing Frederic Vasseur as Team Principal. Central to his vision is Charles Leclerc, whose long-term contract renewal underscores his critical role in Ferrari's strategy.
But it's not only the money for Hamilton; he's got plenty of that. He's a global icon and hasn't been afraid to speak his mind about what he cares about. John Elkann made sure Hamilton didn't have to sacrifice those initiatives.
Elkann promises to embrace and champion Hamilton's diversity and inclusion initiatives, including Mission 44. The potential joint investment fund with Exor could contribute $250 million to Hamilton’s future projects on top of his compensation for his on-track services, making his total deal with Ferrari an astonishing $400 million.
Hamilton's Impact on Ferrari
Hamilton's move is expected to bring a wealth of benefits to Ferrari, from his on-track performance and experience to off-track leadership.
First, Lewis brings the cache of being the most decorated driver in history. Tied for most Drivers Championships (Schumacher, 7) and number one in wins (103). With that comes a level of respect no other driver can command.
His impact on the development of the 2026 car and what he can bring to the strategy department will be invaluable.
But Hamilton is more than just a Formula 1 driver; he's got an impressive portfolio of investments, showing a savvy outlook beyond the life of an athlete.
Some of his investments include non-alcoholic tequila ALMAVE, supplements brand Athletic Greens, TMRW Sports, Denver Broncos Football Club, Neat Burger, Valentino, and Tommy Hilfiger ambassador. Elkann knows this, and that's why it's being reported that he is more than willing to accept Hamilton’s idea of becoming a brand ambassador at Ferrari.
Hamilton's status as a global icon is proven in his social media following, which comprises rabid fans known as TeamLH. His Instagram audience is nearly 3x larger than the next biggest F1 driver (future teammate Charles Leclerc, 13.5 million), and he's only slightly behind the combined following of Ferrari, the brand, and Scuderia Ferrari, the F1 team.
Financially, Ferrari can absolutely bank on a surge in merchandise sales, enhanced sponsorship deals, and an overall increase in the team's brand value.
It will be interesting to see what brands decide to tie themselves to this new partnership. Monster Energy (now a McLaren sponsor), UBS, IWC Schaffhausen, L'Oréal, Qualcomm (former Ferrari sponsor), Bose Corporation, and Sony have been (or are) sponsors of Hamilton. Will we see any movement from those brands?
For the 2024 season, so far, Peroni Nastro Azzurro 0.0%, the Italian premium beer brand, and an extension with Danish electronics brand Bang & Olufsen have been the only sponsorship news for Ferrari.
Santander is likely to depart with Carlos Sainz. And the cost of sponsoring Ferrari will likely increase as well. They've just created the most premium offering in the sport, so they'll have to use that to lock in major sponsors.
This collaboration isn't just a merger of a champion and a legendary team; it's a bold statement of ambition, innovation, and the pursuit of excellence that Ferrari and Hamilton are known for.
I see Hamilton's move as more than a transfer; it's a monumental chapter in F1 history, setting the stage for a legacy of success, both on the track and in the annals of sports marketing.
It's almost odd to type this, but both these icons needed a rejuvenation. The fact that they're doing it together is exciting and just makes sense (and cents).