PARIS: Seven-time Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton will make a surprise switch to Ferrari next year, after Mercedes announced on Thursday (Feb 1) that he would leave the team at the end of the 2024 season.
“The time is right for me to take this step and I’m excited to be taking on a new challenge,” said Hamilton.
Ferrari subsequently confirmed the arrival of the 39-year-old Briton, who is due to partner their current driver Charles Leclerc.
“Ferrari is pleased to announce that Lewis Hamilton will be joining the team in 2025, on a multi-year contract,” the Italian team said in a statement.
Hamilton had previously held discussions with Ferrari in 2019 about joining them.
The BBC reported that Mercedes team staff were called to a meeting with boss Toto Wolff at their UK headquarters on Thursday to be told Hamilton will leave at the end of the 2024 season and head to one of Formula One’s most storied names.
“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,” Mercedes said in a statement.
Hamilton had signed a two-year contract with Mercedes for the 2024 and 2025 seasons, but that deal contained a clause allowing him to leave after one season.
“I have had an amazing 11 years with this team and I’m so proud of what we have achieved together,” Hamilton said.
“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.”
Several reports say Hamilton’s agreement with Ferrari was put together hastily as the team was in talks with Spanish driver Carlos Sainz, who announced he would be leaving the team before the end of the year.
“I and Ferrari will not continue together beyond 2024,” said the 29-year-old from Madrid adding he would give everything for Ferrari this season.
Hamilton won the last of his world titles in 2020 but lost the 2021 championship in controversial fashion to Max Verstappen when the race director ignored the safety car rules in Abu Dhabi, effectively blocking the Briton’s route to victory in both that grand prix and the championship.
The Dutch Red Bull driver, who is 13 years younger than Hamilton, has dominated the F1 scene ever since.
Hamilton finished sixth in the drivers’ standings in 2022 and third in 2023.
“Lewis will always be an important part of Mercedes motorsport history,” said Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff.
“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.”