“The time is right for me to take this step and I’m excited to be taking on a new challenge,” Hamilton said.
After years of rumors, speculation, and the hopeful anticipation of fans (or dreadful, depending on the colors you wear), it's finally happening: Lewis Hamilton will leave Mercedes to drive for Ferrari in a multi-year deal beginning in 2025.
The news was first reported by multiple outlets Thursday morning before both parties confirmed it in respective press releases at 7 p.m. GMT (2 p.m. Eastern). Hamilton's shocking departure turned a relatively quiet silly season, in which most teams reaffirmed their commitments to their star drivers, upside down. It seems the seven-time Formula 1 champion didn't want Merc's, as he enters his final campaign with the crew.
"I have had an amazing 11 years with this team and I'm so proud of what we have achieved together," Hamilton was quoted in a Mercedes release. "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."
Mercedes noted in its statement that Hamilton chose to activate a release option in his contract, which was renewed for two years just this past August. This reportedly came as a surprise to team boss Toto Wolff, who called a meeting earlier today at 9 a.m. Eastern to relay the news to staff at team HQ over video call, because he was out of the country.
"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," Wolff said. "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."
Ferrari for its part recently extended 26-year-old Charles Leclerc's contract in a multi-year deal that will see him remain in Maranello until 2026 at the earliest, so Carlos Sainz Jr. will be displaced in the shake up. Additionally, it's still too early to say who Mercedes will tap to partner George Russell in its now empty car. Pundits have mooted 17-year-old Mercedes junior driver Kimi Antonelli as a replacement, or perhaps Alex Albon, who currently has a link to the team through Williams.
Hamilton just turned 39 in January, and having finished third on the drivers' points table in 2023 with Mercedes coming in second among teams behind Red Bull, you might wonder why he'd make the jump. It's impossible to fully know his rationale, but it's clear he's been considering, or been considered for a Ferrari seat for many years now. The Italian team confessed to chatting with the British driver as far back as 2019, and Hamilton admitted to wondering "what it would be like to be in red" to cap his career only this past May. We're all about to find out in the not-too-distant future.