In what has been described as “the biggest news story F1 has seen for more than a decade”, Lewis Hamilton is to depart Mercedes at the end of the 2024 season and join Monegasque driver Charles Leclerc at Scuderia Ferrari.
After rumours began appearing in the press on the morning of 1st February, an official announcement was made by Ferrari in the afternoon that confirmed the move.
“Scuderia Ferrari is pleased to announce that Lewis Hamilton will be joining the team in 2025, on a multi-year contract,” was all that was initially revealed, but the British seven-time World Champion has since made his own statement.
“I have had an amazing 11 years with this team [Mercedes] and I’m so proud of what we have achieved together,” said Hamilton. “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.”
Hamilton joined Mercedes from McLaren, where he began his F1 career, back in 2013. He went on to win six – nearly seven, which would have been a record – Drivers’ World Championship titles over the course of 11 seasons with the team, adding to one already obtained at McLaren, as well as 82 race wins in Mercedes’ colours.
But the shared success of Hamilton and Mercedes has waned somewhat in recent years; for the first time in his entire career, Hamilton didn’t win a single race in either the 2022 or 2023 race seasons.
How it happened
Ferrari and its chairman, John Elkann, have reportedly spent years trying to lure Hamilton away from Mercedes.
According to F1 correspondent Lawrence Barretto, “Last spring, sources say Lewis Hamilton received a call. It was Elkann. This wasn’t completely out of the blue. Ferrari had come calling before – and Hamilton knew Elkann well… During the call, it is believed Elkann made another play for F1’s most famous driver.”
Hamilton resigned with Mercedes on a contract that would last until the end of 2025 last summer, but “as with many contracts, there were ways of extricating either side from the deal”.
He is believed to have activated a “release option” in his contract and informed Mercedes bosses of his decision just hours before Ferrari made their own announcement.
A Leclerc-Hamilton pairing
The move means that Hamilton will be on a team with 26-year-old Monegasque Charles Leclerc, who recently signed his own multi-year deal with Ferrari.
See more: F1: Monegasque driver Charles Leclerc and Ferrari announce new deal beyond 2024
While Leclerc is yet to make a public statement about Hamilton’s move to Ferrari, he made clear his respect and admiration for the seven-time World Champion when asked about the prospect of the British driver joining the team last year.
“If I say yes [I would like to be his team mate], I imagine it being the title of every newspaper,” he said. “I mean Lewis is such an incredible driver and he has achieved so much in the sport. I think anybody on the grid would love to have Lewis as a team mate, as everybody will learn a lot from him.”
Hamilton’s move to the Italian manufacturer means that Carlos Sainz, who has been at Ferrari since 2021, has been ousted from his seat. In the aftermath of Hamilton’s shock switch, Sainz posted on social media, saying, “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 the Tifosi all around the world. News about my future will be announced in due course.”
“One final roll of the dice”
At 39 years of age, many had expected Hamilton to end his career in the comfort of a Mercedes, but the British driving legend clearly believes he still has more to give the sport.
As Barretto puts it, Hamilton has “one final roll of the dice”.
“Achieve a world championship with Ferrari – giving them their first title in nearly two decades in the process,” he writes, “and his legend will be cemented as the greatest of all time.”
Interview with Charles Leclerc: “We’re just at the start of the season, there is still everything to play for”
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Photo source: Lewis Hamilton, Facebook