Ferrari announced on Thursday that Lewis Hamilton will make a stunning multiyear contract switch to the team for the 2025 Formula One season.
Seven-time world champion Hamilton has won a record 103 races and will be driving for Mercedes this season. He will take Carlos Sainz’s place the following year.
Although the 39-year-old Hamilton signed a new two-year contract with Mercedes last year, he was able to leave the club after only one season by exercising his release option.
According to Hamilton, the choice to leave Mercedes “was one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make.”
He added: “The time is right for me to take this step and I’m excited to be taking on a new challenge. I will be forever grateful for the incredible support of my Mercedes family, especially Toto [Wolff, Mercedes team principal] for his friendship and leadership and I want to finish on a high together.
“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.”
Since Kimi Raikkonen’s win in 2007, Ferrari, the most successful team in Formula One and the only one to have participated in every world championship season, has not won a drivers title.
Currently tied with Ferrari great Michael Schumacher for the most championships won, Hamilton now has the opportunity to break the Italian team’s winning streak and become the most decorated winner in Formula One history.
Should he succeed in doing so, he would be the first driver since Juan Manuel Fangio in 1957 to win championships with three different teams.
Throughout his career, there have been many rumours that Hamilton would join Ferrari, but Thursday’s news still appeared surprising. ESPN has been informed that even Mercedes were taken aback, as seen by the fact that they have not even named a driver to take his place.
On Thursday morning, sources close to ESPN verified the report of Hamilton’s move. John Elkann, the chairman of Ferrari, is well-known for having long admired Hamilton’s abilities and wanted Ferrari to bring in a high-profile driver to join Charles Leclerc going forward.
Recently, Leclerc agreed to a contract extension that would last until at least 2026; Elkann’s goals now provide an explanation for Ferrari’s ambitions to do the same with Sainz.
Despite becoming known as the fastest qualifier in the sport, Leclerc has been with Ferrari since before he even entered Formula One. However, due to a series of high-profile errors made when under pressure, doubts are still raised regarding his ability to win the championship.
Sources claim that Elkann continued in seeking Hamilton’s signature even after the British driver agreed to an extension with Mercedes, and that talks heated up towards the end of the year and into January. Ahead of the Monaco Grand Prix last year, Hamilton and Ferrari team boss Fred Vasseur laughed off reports that the British driver was about to sign with the team.
Hamilton and Vasseur collaborated when Hamilton won the GP2 (now Formula Two) championship in 2006 with the ART team, and they have stayed friendly ever since.
Hamilton had seemed content with ending his career at Mercedes, the team he joined in 2013 in what has to be considered one of the greatest driver moves of recent years, until Thursday’s stunning announcement.
During the most dominating period in Formula One history, which saw Mercedes win the constructors championship eight times in a row between 2014 and 2021, Hamilton won six of his seven world titles with the company.
Hamilton did not win a race in 2022 or 2023 after being controversially disqualified from an eighth drivers title on the last lap of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in 2021.
He claimed last year that Mercedes needed the most productive six months in F1 history in order to catch the top-ranked Red Bull squad.
The core of Mercedes’ team looked poised to continue together going forward; team manager Toto Wolff just agreed to a three-year deal, while George Russell, Hamilton’s teammate, has a contract that runs through the end of 2025.
For the upcoming season, the identity of Hamilton’s replacement is bound to be a hot topic of debate.
A close friend of Russell’s, Alex Albon, a driver for Williams, had an outstanding 2023 and seems to be a serious contender.
Though Sainz might now be Mercedes’s wild card when they try to fill the spot, he is said to be more likely to join with Audi’s upcoming F1 project in 2026.
Although Daniel Ricciardo has stated that he wants to succeed Sergio Perez at Red Bull in 2025, he is also expected to be linked to the position. This year, Ricciardo will race for the newly titled Red Bull junior squad Visa Cash App RB.
The development of Mercedes wonderkid junior driver Andrea Kimi Antonelli, who will compete in Formula Two this season, will now receive more attention. Though an ascension in 2025 would be viewed as untimely, the Italian teenager has been projected as a future star of the sport since he chose Mercedes over Ferrari for his development pact.