Hamilton to leave Mercedes after season, race for Ferrari in 2025
Lewis Hamilton shocked the motorsports world Thursday when the seven-time Formula One champion said he will leave Mercedes at the end of the season to join Ferrari, which had tried to land Hamilton before he signed his latest contract extension with the Silver Arrows.
Hamilton only finalized a two-year extension with Mercedes at the end of August. Mercedes said Thursday the 39-year-old British driver has activated a release clause in that new deal that will allow him to join Ferrari in 2025.
“I have had an amazing 11 years with this team and I’m so proud of what we have achieved together. Mercedes has been part of my life since I was 13 years old,” Hamilton said in a team statement. “It’s a place where I have grown up, so making the decision to leave was one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make. But the time is right for me to take this step and I’m excited to be taking on a new challenge.”
Hamilton moved from McLaren to Mercedes in 2013 and won six of his seven titles with the Silver Arrows. His 103 race victories are an F1 record, but his last win was in the penultimate race of the 2021 season as Mercedes has struggled to get its new car up to speed against rival Red Bull.
News first broke early Thursday about Hamilton's move, but it took the remainder of the day for the teams to address the speculation. Mercedes, with comment from both Hamilton and team principal Toto Wolff, finally said Hamilton was leaving and moments later Ferrari posted a team statement that said simply “Scuderia Ferrari is pleased to announce that Lewis Hamilton will be joining the team in 2025, on a multi-year contract.”
Next came a statement from current Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz Jr., who had been in talks on a contract extension but negotiations had seemed to stall near the end of last year.
“Following today's news, Scuderia Ferrari and myself will part ways at the end of 2024,” Sainz wrote. “We still have a long season ahead of us and, like always, I will give my absolute best for the team and for the Tifosi all around the world. News about my future will be announced in due course.”
Hamilton will finish his run at Mercedes alongside current teammate George Russell. He will be teammates at Ferrari with Charles Leclerc, who in December agreed to a long-term extension.
Hamilton will be 40 when he moves into a red and black uniform to represent Ferrari. His last championship was in 2020 and he was enroute to a record-breaking eighth title in the 2021 season finale until a controversial finish gave the title to Max Verstappen, who has since gone on to win three consecutive titles as Red Bull has surpassed Mercedes as the top team in F1.
Ferrari, meanwhile, has not won a drivers’ title since Kimi Raikkonen in 2007.
The Hamilton move is fairly stunning, even after prolonged negotiations on the extension he signed last year led to speculation he was considering a move to another team. During one news conference last season, Leclerc was asked about the rumors of a new teammate at Ferrari and turned to Hamilton, laughed, and said “Hello, Lewis.”
Still, Hamilton signed the Mercedes extension and insisted he wanted to end his career with his current team because of “unfinished business” and a desire to help Mercedes rebuild its struggling team.
Instead, Wolff said both sides knew their relationship “would come to a natural end at some point, and that day has now come.”
“In terms of a team-driver pairing, our relationship with Lewis has become the most successful the sport has seen, and that’s something we can look back on with pride; Lewis will always be an important part of Mercedes motorsport history," Wolff said. "We accept Lewis’s decision to seek a fresh challenge, and our opportunities for the future are exciting to contemplate. But for now, we still have one season to go, and we are focused on going racing to deliver a strong 2024.”
Hamilton also praised Wolff for his leadership.
“I will be forever grateful for the incredible support of my Mercedes family, especially Toto for his friendship and leadership and I want to finish on a high together," Hamilton said. "I am 100% committed to delivering the best performance I can this season and making my last year with the Silver Arrows, one to remember.”
Mercedes won only one race in 2022 — and it was a Russell win — as the team admittedly badly missed in the design of its new car. Mercedes has spent the past two years trying to improve the car and was winless last season, although Hamilton finished third in the driver standings with six podium finishes.
Leclerc ended last season with three podiums in the last four races as Ferrari began to show signs of being able to contend with Red Bull.
There had been reports for much of last season that Hamilton was being personally courted by Ferrari chairman John Elkann, but former Ferrari president Luca Cordero di Montezemolo said Thursday the Hamilton signing was “unexpected.”
“I hope it can be useful not only for the competitiveness of the team but that it also represents a way to attract attention to the Scuderia, which was needed,” said Montezemolo, who led Ferrari from 1991 to 2014 when the team won six drivers titles and eight constructors championships with Michael Schumacher setting records.
“Hamilton is a great champion who will want to end his career by winning the world title. Leclerc is seeking his first title, so it will be fun,” Montezemolo continued. “But with two No. 1s, it will be even more important to have a winning car — that will be key, otherwise this choice could end up being a big risk.”
F1's preseason testing begins in Bahrain on Feb. 21 and the first race is in Bahrain on March 2.
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