Lewis Hamilton will make a sensational move to Ferrari on a multi-year deal for the 2025 Formula One season, the Italian team confirmed on Thursday.
Hamilton, a seven-time world champion and winner of a record 103 races, will drive for Mercedes next season before being replaced by Carlos Sainz next year.
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Hamilton, 39, signed a new two-year deal with Mercedes last year but exercised a release option to let him leave the team after one season.
Hamilton said leaving Mercedes was „one of the hardest decisions I've ever had to make”.
He added: „The time is right for me to make this move and I am excited to take on a new challenge. I will always be grateful for the incredible support of my Mercedes family, especially Toto. [Wolff, Mercedes team principal] For his friendship and leadership I would like to finish a high together.
„I am 100% committed to give the best performance I can this season and make my last year memorable with the Silver Arrows.”
Ferrari, F1's most successful team and the only team to have contested every world championship season, never won the driver's title in 2007 under Kimi Raikkonen.
Hamilton, who joins Ferrari legend Michael Schumacher with seven titles, now has the chance to end the Italian team's drought and move clear as F1's most decorated champion in the process.
If he does, he will be the first driver since Juan Manuel Fangio in 1957 to win the championship with three different teams.
Rumors of Hamilton joining Ferrari have been common throughout his career, but Thursday's news has yet to emerge — and ESPN was told Mercedes were also caught, reflecting the fact they have yet to confirm a driver. Change him.
ESPN sources confirmed the news of Hamilton's move Thursday morning. Ferrari chairman John Elkann, known as a long-time admirer of Hamilton's ability, wanted Ferrari to attach a big-name driver to Charles Leclerc.
Leclerc recently signed a contract extension until at least 2026 — and Elkann's ambitions now explain why Ferrari stalled on doing so with Nissan.
Leclerc was with Ferrari before joining F1 but, despite a reputation as the sport's fastest qualifier, made a high number of mistakes under pressure and there were questions about his ability to win the championship.
Ahead of last year's Monaco Grand Prix, Hamilton and Ferrari team principal Fred Vasseur laughed off reports that the British driver was set to sign with the team, but sources say Elkann continued to chase Hamilton's signature even after agreeing an extension with Mercedes, and negotiations intensified. At the end of the year and into January.
Vasseur worked with Hamilton when he won the GP2 (now Formula Two) title with the ART team in 2006 and the two have been on good terms ever since.
Until Thursday's bombshell announcement, Hamilton had been enjoying his career with the Mercedes team he joined in 2013, one of the best driver moves in recent memory.
Hamilton won six of his seven world titles with the most dominant team in F1 history, which saw Mercedes win the Constructors' Championship eight times in a row between 2014 and 2021.
After controversially denying him an eighth driver's title in the final lap of the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Hamilton has failed to secure a race win in 2022 or 2023.
He said last year that Mercedes needed the best six months of development in F1 history to catch the dominant Red Bull team.
Mercedes appeared ready to move into the future with the core of its team — team principal Toto Wolff recently signed a three-year extension, while Hamilton's teammate George Russell is under contract until the end of 2025.
The identity of Hamilton's replacement will now be a major talking point in the upcoming season.
„We knew our partnership would come to a natural end at some point, and that day has now arrived,” Wolff said. „We welcome Lewis' decision to seek a new challenge, and our prospects for the future are exciting to contemplate.”
Williams driver Alex Alban, who is enjoying a good 2023 and is a good friend of Russell's, looks a strong candidate.
Sainz is considered the most likely to sign with Audi's incoming F1 program in 2026, although he could now be Mercedes' left-field choice to fill the void.
„Following today's news, Scuderia Ferrari and I will part ways at the end of 2024,” Sainz said in a statement. Published in X.
„We still have a long season ahead of us and as always, I will give my absolute best for the team and DeFozzi around the world.
„News about my future will be announced in due course.”
Daniel Ricciardo, who will compete for this year's newly named Red Bull Junior Team Visa Cash of RB, is likely to be linked with the seat, although he has made it clear he wants to replace Sergio Perez at Red Bull in 2025.
Additional attention will be paid to the progress of Mercedes wonderkid junior driver Andrea Kimi Antonelli, who will compete in Formula Two this season. The young Italian, who signed a development deal with Mercedes at Ferrari, is regarded as a future star of the sport, but a promotion to 2025 could be considered too soon.
„Całkowity introwertyk. Nieprzejednany specjalista od sieci. Przyjazny fanatyk bekonu. Student ekstremalnych. Miłośnik piwa. Organizator.”