The rumours surrounding Lewis Hamilton potentially completing a dramatic switch to Ferrari for 2024 are primarily motivated by the Brit’s annoyance that Max Verstappen is Formula 1’s current highest earner, according to Red Bull Motorsport Advisor Helmut Marko.
Since he left McLaren to join Mercedes in 2013 Hamilton had consistently been heralded as the driver that has pocketed the most lucrative annual wage in the sport.
However, Max Verstappen’s bumper contract extension through 2028, signed prior to the beginning of last season, is worth a reported $55 million a year and has elevated the reigning champion above Hamilton as F1’s highest-paid individual on the grid.
While Marko acknowledges that the seven-time World Champion will be unsatisfied with Mercedes’ current uncompetitive state that has left it lagging behind, the Austrian believes that Hamilton is also dissatisfied by being usurped financially by his ex-title rival.
“There are two things that really annoy Hamilton,” Marko stated to F1 Insider. “Firstly, that he is no longer world champion and will find it difficult to become one again in the future.
“He knows there is no place for him at Red Bull. And whether Ferrari will be better for him in terms of sport than Mercedes is not set in stone.
“In addition to the sporting perspective, Lewis is anything but happy that he is no longer the highest-earning driver in F1. This is Max Verstappen now. At least that he could change with Ferrari’s help.”
Italian source La Gazzetta dello Sport have reported that Ferrari president John Elkann is infatuated with the prospect of signing Hamilton to partner Charles Leclerc in 2024.
Despite persistent speculation linking him with a move away to the Maranello-based outfit, both Hamilton and Mercedes chief Toto Wolff have underlined a joint desire to come to an agreement on extending the terms of their longstanding relationship.
Furthermore, Leclerc’s Ferrari team-mate, Carlos Sainz, has a contract with the Scuderia until the end of next season and recently expressed in an interview that he intends to remain beyond that.
Marko and Red Bull team boss Christian Horner have already ruled out the reigning champions courting Hamilton, while Aston Martin is likely to retain its current pairing of Fernando Alonso and Lance Stroll.
After a troubled start to the campaign, Mercedes currently occupies third place in the Constructors’ Championship – already a huge 128 points behind Red Bull.
Following only a solitary victory last campaign – achieved by George Russell at the penultimate race in Brazil – the Silver Arrows are yet to notch a win this season and have only achieved a single podium, courtesy of Hamilton in Australia.
Having acknowledged its decision to retain the zero sidepod concept it has run since the technical regulations were reshaped last year was the wrong one for 2023, the German side is set to unveil revised bodywork at this weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix.