Lewis Hamilton has announced he will leave Mercedes at the end of the 2024 season ahead of a blockbuster move to Ferrari.
The 39-year-old is entering the first year of a new two-year deal with Mercedes worth £100million.
But the seven-time Formula One world champion has activated a release clause in the deal, and Ferrari subsequently announced he will join the Italian team on a multi-year contract that starts in 2025.
Mercedes issued a statement confirming Hamilton’s early exit on Thursday evening, signalling the end of an extraordinarily successful partnership during which Hamilton won six of his world titles in the space of seven years from 2014-20.
Although they enjoyed incredible success, the team have since fallen off the pace and Hamilton has not won a race since controversially missing out on a record eighth world championship in 2021.
Hamilton said: “I have had an amazing 11 years with this team and I’m so proud of what we have achieved together. 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 (Wolff, Mercedes team principal) for his friendship and leadership and I want to finish on a high together.
“I am 100 per cent committed to delivering the best performance I can this season and making my last year with the Silver Arrows one to remember.”
Wolff said Mercedes accepted Hamilton’s decision to leave.
“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,” he said.
“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.”
Following the Mercedes statement, Ferrari issued a one-line statement announcing Hamilton’s move.
“Scuderia Ferrari is pleased to announce that Lewis Hamilton will be joining the team in 2025, on a multi-year contract,” the statement said.
Charles Leclerc recently agreed a new long-term deal with Ferrari, so it will be Carlos Sainz that makes way for Hamilton, with the Spaniard’s contract expiring at the end of the 2024 season.
Sainz issued his own statement, which said: “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.”
Hamilton began his Formula One career with McLaren and won his first world title with them in 2008 before switching to Mercedes in 2013.
In terms of race wins, he is the most successful driver in the sport’s history with 103, 12 ahead of Michael Schumacher, with whom he shares the record for the most world titles.
Published: by Radio NewsHub