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Suppose that after 2023, Mercedes did not renew Lewis Hamilton's contract.

Could Hamilton go to another main team such as Red Bull or Ferrari as a driver?

Can F1 driver contracts forbid transferring to another team, for reasons such as protecting their competitive secrets?

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  • While I understand what you're asking, I think you've chosen a bad example. If Hamilton's contract expires, then it won't matter whether Mercedes had a clause forbidding him from moving to Red Bull, because that contract has now expired, and expired contracts mean nothing.
    – F1Krazy
    Commented Sep 3, 2022 at 7:46
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    @F1Krazy Non-compete clauses do exist and can prevent employees (in general) from going to work for a competitor even after the contract has ended. I think the question here is whether such a non-compete has even been used in F1, or could in theory ever be used.
    – Philip Kendall
    Commented Sep 3, 2022 at 11:16

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The easy half of this to answer is

Do Formula 1 driver contracts forbid transferring to a competitor?

While we obviously don't have the details of every single contract, there are plenty of examples of this happening, whether that be Hamilton's move from McLaren to Mercedes in 2013, Vettel's move from Red Bull to Ferrari in 2015 or Oscar Piastri's move from Alpine to McLaren in 2022.

The harder half is "could Formula 1 driver contracts forbid this?" That's more a question of general contract law, but:

  1. All F1 teams except Haas (US-based) and maybe Alfa Romeo (registered in Switzerland) are bound by the EU's Bosman ruling which would prevent this in the general case.
  2. Could a specific non-compete on confidentiality grounds be used? That's a question which is very jurisdiction dependent. My entirely unprofessional opinion is that this would probably not fly under UK law: while the UK allows non-compete clauses in general, they have to be "reasonable" and in particular not be so broad as to prevent the employee from obtaining appropriate work. Preventing an F1 driver from going to any other F1 team would probably meet the threshold of obtaining appropriate work, as the driver would almost certainly not be able to obtain work at similar pay and conditions in any other field.

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