The Formula 1 was left shocked after Ferrari clinched the signature of the seven-time world champion for the 2025 season and beyond.
Ahead of the conclusion of a historic spell with Mercedes, which started in 2013, Hamilton has elaborated on the reasons behind his decision, just months after signing a new two-year deal with the Silver Arrows.
Hamilton said: “It’s been a crazy few days which have been filled with a whole range of emotions. But as you all now know, after an incredible 11 years at Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team, the time has come for me to start a new chapter in my life and I will be joining Scuderia Ferrari in 2025. I feel incredibly fortunate, after achieving things with Mercedes that I could only have dreamed of as a kid, that I now have the chance to fulfil another childhood dream. Driving in Ferrari red.
“Mercedes has been a huge part of my life since I was 13 years old, so this decision has been the hardest I’ve ever had to make. I’m incredibly proud of all that we’ve achieved together and I’m very grateful for the hard work and dedication of everyone I have worked with over the years and of course Toto, for his friendship, guidance and leadership. Together we have won titles, broken records and become the most successful Driver-Team partnership in F1 history. And of course I cannot forget Niki who was a huge supporter and who I still miss everyday.
“I must also share my huge appreciation to the whole of the Mercedes-Benz board and everyone at the company in Germany and around the world for supporting me over these 26 years. But the time is right to make a change and take on a new challenge. I still remember the feeling of taking a leap of faith into the unknown when I first joined Mercedes in 2013. I know some people didn’t understand it at the time but I was right to make the move then and it's the feeling I have again now. I’m excited to see what I can bring to this new opportunity and what we can do together.
“However, right now, I’m not thinking about 2025. My focus is on the upcoming season and getting back out on track with Mercedes. I am more driven than ever, I am fitter and more focussed than than ever and I want to help Mercedes win once again. I am 100% committed to the job I need to do and determined to end my partnership with the team on a high. Thank you to all of you who have been on this journey with me, you have all lifted me up as I chase my dreams and I hope I can continue to make you proud. As always, sending you my love and positive energy.”
Hamilton, who has signed a “multi-year contract”, will race alongside Charles Leclerc and replace Carlos Sainz at Ferrari next year, with the Spaniard out of contract at the iconic Italian team at the end of 2024 and now looking for a new team.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff and technical director James Allison informed Mercedes personnel of Hamilton’s departure on Thursday afternoon. The Silver Arrows confirmed the news in a statement on Thursday evening.
It leaves the Silver Arrows looking for a driver to partner George Russell in 2025, while targeting success with Hamilton in what will be his final season with the team in 2024.
It represents a wild turn of events, less than a month until the start of the new season. Hamilton, who will be 40 by the time he wears the famous scarlet red, has previously been unabating in his commitment to Mercedes.
It is believed that Ferrari president John Elkann has been integral in talks persuading Hamilton to swap Brackley for Maranello next year.
— Formula 1 (@F1) February 1, 2024
Hamilton, the joint-most successful driver in the sport’s history, has won six of his seven world championships at Mercedes after joining from McLaren in 2013, in what was then a surprising move.
Wolff added: “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.
“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 2024 season begins in four weeks at the Bahrain Grand Prix.