Lewis Hamilton has rocked the Formula 1 world by announcing he will race for Ferrari in 2025 and leave Mercedes.
Lewis Hamilton will make a sensational move to Ferrari for the 2025 Formula One season on a multi-year deal, 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.
Hamilton, 39, signed a new two-year contract with Mercedes last year but exercised a release option that allowed him to 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 has come for me to take this step 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, director del equipo Mercedes] I also want to end on a high note for your friendship and leadership.
“I am 100% committed to delivering the best performance I can this season and making my final year with the Silver Arrows an unforgettable one.”
Ferrari, F1's most successful team and the only team to have contested every season of the world championship, has not won the driver's title since Kimi Raikkonen in 2007.
Hamilton joins Ferrari legend Michael Schumacher with seven titles and now has the chance to end the Italian team's drought and become F1's most decorated champion in the process.
If he achieves this, 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 come out of nowhere: ESPN was told Mercedes were also caught off guard. Change him.
ESPN sources confirmed the news of Hamilton's trade Thursday morning. Ferrari chairman John Elcon, a long-time admirer of Hamilton's talent, wanted Ferrari to add a legendary driver to partner Charles Leclerc in the future.
Leclerc recently signed a contract extension until at least 2026; Elkann's ambitions now explain why Ferrari was slow to do something similar with Sainz.
Leclerc has been with Ferrari before joining F1 but, despite building a reputation as the sport's fastest qualifier, there are doubts about his ability to win a championship.
Ahead of last year's Monaco Grand Prix, Hamilton and Ferrari team principal Fred Vasseur laughed off reports that the British driver was close to signing with the team, but sources say Elkann pursued a signature from Hamilton even after agreeing an extension with Mercedes. And negotiations intensified. At the end of the year and into January.
Vazur 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 announcement, Hamilton was happy to end his career with the Mercedes team he joined in 2013, which is considered one of the best driver moves in recent times.
Hamilton won six of his seven world titles with the team during one of the most dominant periods 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 failed to secure a win in 2022 or 2023.
He said last year that Mercedes would need the best six months of growth in F1 history to catch the dominant Red Bull team.
Mercedes was ready to face 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 for next season.
“We knew our partnership would come to its natural end at some point, and that day has come,” Wolfe said. “We welcome Lewis' decision to seek a new challenge and are excited to think about our prospects for the future.”
Williams driver Alex Alban, who enjoyed an excellent 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 be Mercedes' left-hand option as they look to fill the void.
Daniel Ricciardo, who will ride for the new Red Bull Visa Cash App RB Junior team this year, could be linked with the seat, although he has made it clear he wants to replace Sergio Perez at Red Bull in 2025.
Much attention will now be focused on the progress of Mercedes junior driver Andrea Kimi Antonelli, who will compete in Formula Two this season. The young Italian, who has signed a development deal with Mercedes rather than Ferrari, has been heralded as a future star of the sport, but a promotion to 2025 could soon be considered.