F1’s most successful driver is hoping for more success elsewhere. Lewis Hamilton is leaving Mercedes, where he scored most of his record-tying seven championships and record-breaking 103 wins, for Ferrari.
“I have had an amazing 11 years with this team and I’m so proud of what we have achieved together,” Hamilton said in a statement. “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.”
Mercedes has struggled since Hamilton lost the championship to Max Verstappen in 2021, with its current design for the new technical regulations not fast enough. Though the team finished second in the Constructor’s Championship last season, it was with less than half the points scored by Red Bull and after a hard-fought battle with Ferrari.
It’s a massive move, but it’s not his first big switch. Hamilton made his career by moving from McLaren to Mercedes just as the ‘Silver Arrows’ team entered its dominant era, and he earned seven championships at the helm. The decision was definitely the right one then.
Perhaps, like then, he knows something about Ferrari’s development. The new engine regulations will come into force in 2026. Ferrari is a longtime engine supplier, and Red Bull is producing its own engines for the first time to meet the regulations. That leaves an opening for a fresh team to counter their dominant run.
It doesn’t necessarily explain the decision to leave Mercedes, though, since the German team produces its own engines too. A fallout behind the scenes is also unlikely given that Hamilton was on good enough terms to sign a contract extension with the team until 2025 in the middle of last season.
Regardless of the reason, the 39-year-old driver will get a change of scenery after eleven years racing for Mercedes and 17 years being affiliated with the team, including driving for McLaren Mercedes as the team was known at the time.
As for the Ferrari side of the deal, Hamilton coming in means one driver is going out. With Charles Leclerc having recently signed a contract extension, Carlos Sainz is in the unfortunate position.
The partnership doesn’t take effect until 2025, though. That means both Hamilton will spend the next year driving for teams they know they won’t be with for long.
“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,” Hamilton said for his part.
“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.”
Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team Principal and CEO Toto Wolff echoed that sentiment.
“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,” Wolff said.
Carlos Sainz also promised to “give my absolute best for the Team and for the [fans] around the world” in a post on social media.
As for who Mercedes might replace Hamilton with, there’s been no indication yet. But Mercedes was successful in drawing up George Russell from the Mercedes-powered Williams team. Alex Albon seems like a likely prospect, then, given his tremendous performance at Williams.
Regardless, Mercedes will have many options. The team did rally for second in the Constructors’ Championship last year and has a pedigree of winning recently. Perhaps they’ll even swoop in and pick up Carlos Sainz.
The shock move buried complaints about F1’s handling of Andretti and Cadillac’s bid to enter the series the previous day. Against FIA recommendations, Formula One Management rejected the joint entry. Plenty of fans and motorsports insiders interpreted it as a slight against American racing.
“We do not believe that the Applicant would be a competitive participant,” the published reasons read in part, despite Andretti being successful in IndyCar and other ventures and Cadillac competing for the win in the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona with their successful sports car program.
“While the Andretti name carries some recognition for F1 fans, our research indicates that F1 would bring value to the Andretti brand rather than the other way around.”
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