For two years, Lewis Hamilton has seen red in the cockpit of his Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 cars. Part of that was a red mist, Hamilton undoubtedly angry about Mercedes getting its car concept so badly wrong when teams had to develop new cars for the 2022 Formula 1 season. And part of that was from watching the scarlet Ferraris pass his team by. The Italian outfit beat Mercedes to second place in the Manufacturer’s Championship in 2022, and although Mercedes beat Ferrari by 3 points in 2023, Mercedes has taken one pole position and won a single race in the past two years, Ferrari has started on pole 19 times and won five races. Hamilton signed another two-year contract with Mercedes last year, but the contract included an escape clause. So Hamilton, who’s 39, has decided to put the clause to use.
Hamilton will partner with Charles Leclerc at Ferrari, the Monegasque driver having signed another long-term contract last year that keeps him at Ferrari until the end of 2026.
The Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 team announced the loss of Sir Lewis this afternoon. Here’s the team statement:
The Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team and Lewis Hamilton will part ways at the end of the 2024 season. 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.
The news brings an end to what is currently a 17-year long relationship in F1 with Mercedes-Benz and an 11-year long partnership with the works team.
Toto Wolff, Team Principal & CEO, commented:
“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.”
Lewis Hamilton added:
“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 for his friendship and leadership and I want to finish on a high together. I am 100% committed to delivering the best performance I can this season and making my last year with the Silver Arrows, one to remember.”
There were rumors even before Leclerc signed with Ferrari about holdups with a contract for his teammate, Carlos Sainz Jr. All Ferrari team principal Cedric Vasseur would say publicly is that everything would be taken care of. Racer reports that during those Sainz discussions, Ferrari company Chairman John Elkann heard there was a chance to get Hamilton. Well, everything’s certainly been taken care of, to Elkann and Vasseur’s satisfaction and everyone else’s surprise.
Hamilton will restart a working relationship with Vasseur, who founded the ART Grand Prix team that Hamilton won the Formula 3 title with in 2005 and the GP2 title with in 2006. He also gets to Ferrari one year before the regulations change again, in 2026. It’s possible an earlier Mercedes move having to do with a previous regulation change foreshadowed this one. Loic Serra joined Mercedes F1 in 2010 and left in 2023, spending his final five years in Brackley as the team’s performance director. When Mercedes began developing the “zero sidepod” W13 car for the 2022 season, Serra reportedly told the team the car concept wouldn’t work. Hamilton said he also told the team the car wasn’t going in the proper direction. After Ferrari hired Cedric Vasseur at the end of 2022, who did Vasseur make his first big external hire in July 2023? Loic Serra, who also officially begins his role in Maranello at the beginning of 2025.
Hamilton heads to Italy with his record 103 wins and 104 pole positions, and record-tying seven F1 Driver’s Championships. The signing creates one of the best driver pairings on the grid, and would love to recreate the kind of glory Ferrari hasn’t basked in since Michael Schumacher’s last championship in 2004 — Schumacher being the only other driver with seven titles. Hamilton also follows in the footsteps of what can only be considered failed campaigns in red by Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel.
Assuming all this goes down the way it looks now, Hamilton will be 40 when he joins the Scuderia, and he’ll hope to prove Ferrari isn’t a graveyard for late-career, championship-winning drivers who love the scarlet but who built their reputations and won their trophies elsewhere.