Lewis Hamilton delivered one of the most stunning driver moves in Formula 1 history today by signing for Ferrari for 2025 on a multi-year contract.
The deal, confirmed late Thursday in Europe, aligns Formula 1’s most decorated driver with its most successive and evocative team, while also ending the most prolific driver-team partnership in history, in a seismic Formula 1 move.
Hamilton will pair with Charles Leclerc, who last week renewed a long-term arrangement to stay at Ferrari.
News of the shock move first emerged from Italian media early on Thursday before being confirmed later in the day, with official notification of his Mercedes exit followed by Ferrari’s announcement.
Hamilton, 39, made his Formula 1 debut in 2007 and has raced for only two teams, McLaren and Mercedes, switching to the Silver Arrows in 2013.
Hamilton is Formula 1’s most successful driver, with 103 wins, and seven world titles, though has not won a race in two years amid Mercedes’ struggles in the current regulatory cycle.
Hamilton had signed a two-year extension in August 2023 to stay with Mercedes through 2025, and previously made clear he was confident in the team’s recovery, amid its new design concept for 2024.
But Hamilton’s contract had an exit clause, which he has now activated, and he will leave the team at the conclusion of the 2024 season to join Ferrari.
Hamilton’s switch to Ferrari for 2025 leaves Carlos Sainz without a seat while also opening a vacancy at Mercedes alongside the contracted George Russell.
The End of An Era
Hamilton’s impending departure will bring to a close the most successful partnership between a driver and a team in Formula 1 history.
Hamilton, Formula 1’s biggest star, had previously spoken of spending his entire career at Mercedes, remaining an ambassador for the brand long into his eventual retirement.
He has driven a Mercedes-powered car throughout his Formula 1 career, having spent six seasons at McLaren before joining the official works team.
That move came in 2013, as Mercedes began to improve, allowing Hamilton to claim victory in Hungary, before overhauled regulations in 2014 kick-started a new era.
Mercedes dominated Formula 1 under new engine regulations, holding a sizeable advantage over the rest of the opposition, with Hamilton dueling for the title with team-mate Nico Rosberg.
Hamilton claimed titles in 2014 and 2015, before losing out to Rosberg in 2016, after which the German retired from Formula 1.
Hamilton went on to face a renewed threat from Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari across 2017-18, and prevailed on both occasions, before Mercedes moved clear across 2019 and 2020.
The Briton surpassed Michael Schumacher’s tally of 91 wins and equalled his record of seven championships in a 2020 campaign that was shortened and delayed by the pandemic.
Hamilton’s reign was ended in 2021 by Max Verstappen after the pair’s epic season-long duel, which was decided in controversial fashion on the final lap of the season in Abu Dhabi.
Verstappen and Red Bull moved clear in 2022 under new technical regulations which Mercedes has yet to get on top of, with Hamilton win-less since the penultimate round of 2021.
So far—with a season of 24 races still to run this year—Hamilton and Mercedes have registered 82 wins together, along with six titles, a record for one driver/team association. That has come across 222 grands prix, with 2024 set to be the 12th season between the parties, another Formula 1 record.
A Big Name for Ferrari, Relationship Renewed
Hamilton will be 40 years old by the time he starts his first race with Ferrari, and there is undoubtedly a romantic element about the impending partnership as he enters the twilight of his career.
Hamilton has previously flirted with Ferrari during previous contract talks—and Ferrari hierarchy made no secret of their admiration—but Hamilton always swiftly and firmly recommitted to Mercedes.
But Ferrari chairman John Elkann has now landed a big-name signing for the Scuderia as it strives to end its lengthy championship drought.
Ferrari is Formula 1’s most successful team but has not won a Drivers’ title since 2007, when Kimi Räikkönen grabbed the crown at the finale from the clutches of then McLaren rookie Hamilton.
Since then Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso, twice, were on the losing side of last-round deciders, while Vettel’s bids faltered up against the Hamilton/Mercedes dynasty.
Ferrari—as with Mercedes—has not matched up to Red Bull’s challenge once the current champions got into their stride partway through 2022, and faced a competitive chasm to the Verstappen/Red Bull in 2023. Mercedes beat Ferrari to the runner-up spot by just four points but Ferrari ended the year with higher peaks, having taken more poles and the only non-Red Bull win courtesy of Sainz.
Both the scarlet team and the Silver Arrows are in very similar positions of trying to steady the ship for 2024-25 while keeping a firm eye on the new rules that will be implemented in 2026.
The deal brings Hamilton back to working with Ferrari Team Principal Frederic Vasseur.
Vasseur, appointed by Ferrari ahead of the 2023 season, ran the junior team ART Grand Prix with which Hamilton won titles in Formula 3 and GP2 in the mid-2000s.
On paper it is a win-win for the parties—as well as for Formula 1—with Ferrari securing the services of an icon of the sport, in what will be a fascinating story for the championship.
For Hamilton it will be a rejuvenating move and a chance to add a final glittering chapter to his career, as he strives to win an unprecedented eighth world title. Even if the move does not yield the success that both parties will crave then there is still the notion of Hamilton achieving a dream by representing Ferrari as a career epilogue. As Vettel once quipped, everyone’s a Ferrari fan.
There is also the intriguing subplot of the relationship between Hamilton and Leclerc, with the Monegasque—part of Ferrari’s structure since 2016 and its Formula 1 lineup since 2019—having recently signed a long-term extension. A Hamilton/Leclerc partnership is likely to be a formidable pairing.