It’s been an oft-rumoured move but it’s now signed and sealed, to be delivered in 2025 when Lewis Hamilton dons the red overalls and joins Ferrari.
On Thursday morning F1 journalists were promising that big news was on the horizon and not long after reports started appearing ranging from those suggesting that Hamilton to Ferrari could happen, to those stating that reliable sources had confirmed the move was most definitely on.
During the afternoon, Sky Sports were outside the Mercedes’ Brackley base and reporting that employees had been called to a short meeting where it was confirmed to them that Hamilton would be leaving them after the upcoming 2024 season despite having signed a two year extension to his contract in August 2023.
Official confirmation however took a little longer, at 7pm Mercedes released a statement confirming that Hamilton had a release clause in his contract that he’d activated and so 2024 would be his last season with the team:
“The Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team and Lewis Hamilton will part ways at the end of the 2024 season. Lewis has activated a release option in the contract announced last August and this season will therefore be his last driving for the Silver Arrows. The news brings an end to what is currently a 17-year long relationship in F1 with Mercedes-Benz and an 11-year long partnership with the works team.”
The seven-time champion thanked Mercedes for their “incredible support” and described his choice to leave as “one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make”.
“I have had an amazing 11 years with this team,” Hamilton said, “and I’m so proud of what we have achieved together. Mercedes has been part of my life since I was 13 years old. 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.
“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. 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.”
Ten minutes later Ferrari followed up with their own statement: “Scuderia Ferrari is pleased to announce that Lewis Hamilton will be joining the team in 2025, on a multi-year contract.”
Hamilton has been with the Mercedes team since 2013 and the pairing was a powerhouse in the hybrid era winning six of the eight Drivers’ Championships together – Hamilton’s teammate Nico Rosberg took the 2016 crown while Red Bull’s Max Verstappen took the 2021 title – while as a constructor Mercedes were unbeatable, winning all eight of the Constructors’ Titles in that era.
In the Mercedes statement, Team Principal and CEO, Toto Wolff, said the team accepted Hamilton’s “decision to seek a fresh challenge”.
“In terms of a team-driver pairing,” Wolff said, “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.
“However, we knew our partnership would come to a natural end at some point, and that day has now come. 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.”
The red overalls will be the least of the changes Hamilton will have to get used to with this move as it’ll be the first time he’s with a team that isn’t based in the UK with English as its main language, and it will be the first time he hasn’t raced in F1 with a Mercedes engine – McLaren were powered by Mercedes when Hamilton drove and won with them from 2007 and 2012.
Last week Ferrari confirmed that Charles Leclerc had extended his contract beyond 2024, so we will see a Hamilton/Leclerc pairing for at least 2025.
Carlos Sainz, who has partnered Leclerc since joining the Scuderia in 2021, and was the only non-Red Bull driver to take a win in the 2023 season, will leave at the end of 2024.
On social media, after the official announcements were made, the Spaniard said: “Following today’s news, Scuderia Ferrari and myself will part ways at the end of 2024. We still have a long season ahead of us and, like always, I will give my absolute best for the Team and for all the Tifosi around the world. News about my future will be announced in due course.”