Lewis Hamilton will make a sensational move to Ferrari for the 2025 Formula One season, the Italian team announced on Thursday.
Hamilton, a seven-time world champion and winner of a record 103 races, will drive for Mercedes this coming season before replacing Carlos Sainz the following year.
– Unlapped: How to listen or watch ESPN’s new F1 show
Hamilton, 39, signed a new two-year contract with Mercedes last year but it is now clear the second year was an option.
Ferrari, F1’s most successful team and the only one to have competed in every world championship season, has not won a drivers title since Kimi Raikkonen did it in 2007.
Hamilton, tied with Ferrari legend Michael Schumacher with seven titles, now has a chance to end the Italian team’s drought and move clear as F1’s most decorated champion in the process.
Were he to do so, he would become the first driver to win championships with three different teams since Juan Manuel Fangio in 1957.
Hamilton has been rumoured to be joining Ferrari on multiple occasions throughout his career, but Thursday’s news still appeared to come out of the blue. Sources have told ESPN that Mercedes has been caught off guard, reflected by the fact they have not yet confirmed a driver to replace him.
ESPN sources confirmed the news of Hamilton’s switch on Thursday morning. Ferrari chairman John Elkann, known to be a long-time admirer of Hamilton’s ability, wanted Ferrari to add a big-name driver to partner Charles Leclerc going forward.
Leclerc recently signed a contract extension until at least 2026, and Elkann’s ambitions now explain why Ferrari had been stalling on doing similar with Sainz.
Leclerc has been with Ferrari since before he joined F1 but, despite forging a reputation as the sport’s fastest qualifier, questions remain about his ability to win a championship, having made a string of high-profile mistakes under pressure.
Ahead of last year’s Monaco Grand Prix, Hamilton and Ferrari team boss Fred Vasseur laughed off reports that the British driver was about to sign with the team, but sources have told ESPN that Elkann continued chasing Hamilton’s signature even after he agreed an extension with Mercedes and that negotiations intensified towards the end of the year and into January.
Vasseur worked with Hamilton when he won the GP2 (now Formula Two) title in 2006 with the ART team and the two have since remained on good terms.
Until Thursday’s bombshell announcement, Hamilton had appeared happy to see out his career with Mercedes, the team he joined in 2013 in what has gone down as one of the best driver moves in recent times.
Hamilton won six of his seven world titles with the team in the most dominant spell in F1 history, which saw Mercedes win the constructors’ championship eight times in a row between 2014 and 2021.
After being controversially denied an eighth drivers’ title on the final lap of the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Hamilton failed to score a single race victory in either 2022 or 2023.
Last year he said Mercedes needed the best six months of development in F1 history just to catch the dominant Red Bull team.
Mercedes appeared set to go into the future with the core of its team together — team boss Toto Wolff recently signed a three-year extension, while Hamilton’s teammate George Russell is under contract until the end of 2025.
The identity of Hamilton’s replacement will now be a major talking point for the season ahead.
Williams driver Alex Albon, who enjoyed a standout 2023 and is a good friend of Russell, appears to be a strong candidate.
Sainz is considered more likely to sign with Audi’s incoming F1 project in 2026, although he now may be a left-field option for Mercedes as they look to fill the void.
Daniel Ricciardo, who will race for the newly-named Red Bull junior team Visa Cash App RB this year, is also likely to be linked to the seat, although he has made it clear he wants to replace Sergio Perez at Red Bull in 2025.
Added attention will now be paid to the progress of Mercedes wonderkid junior driver Andrea Kimi Antonelli, who will race in Formula Two this season. The Italian teenager, who signed a development deal with Mercedes over Ferrari, has been tipped as a future star of the sport but an elevation in 2025 might be considered too early.