1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

F1: Lewis Hamilton to leave Mercedes, join Ferrari

February 1, 2024

F1's most successful driver ever looks set to finish his career wearing the scarlet red of Ferrari. After a day of feverish speculation, Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes team announced the seven-time champion would be leaving.

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain arrives at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, Bahrain, Thursday, March 2, 2023.
Hamilton had spoken in the past about the passion of Ferrari's fanbase and the allure of the team, which has been in F1 from the very beginningImage: Frank Augstein/AP Photo/picture alliance

Seven-time Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton has activated a clause in his contract that will enable him to leave his Mercedes team at the end of this coming season, a year earlier than scheduled, Hamilton and the team said on Thursday evening. 

The statement followed a day in which several specialist publications had already reported Hamilton would be joining Ferrari for the 2025 season. 

"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," Hamilton said in a statement that did not mention Ferrari.

Minutes later, Ferrari issued a statement of its own saying Hamilton would join on a "multi-year" deal starting in 2025. 

The 39-year-old had said in the past that if there was one team he could imagine switching to later in his career, it was Ferrari. The Italian outfit is the oldest and most storied — and probably still the best supported — on the grid.

Wide shot of the crowd celebrating beneath the podium at Monza after the 2019 Italian Grand Prix. In the background, Charles Leclerc, Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas can be seen on the podium.
Hamilton has had a bird's eye view from the podium of the unmatched elation that Ferrari's 'Tifosi' fanbase exhibit if one of the scarlet cars wins the Italian Grand Prix in Monza. He remarked on the scenes pictured here in 2019 after losing a close-fought battle with Charles Leclerc, his likely teammate in 2025.Image: James Moy/empics/picture alliance

Six drivers' titles in 11 seasons with Mercedes

Hamilton won six of his seven career F1 drivers' championships with Mercedes as well as 82 of his 103 race wins.

Both those figures are all-time records for the sport; Michael Schumacher won six individual championships and 91 races. 

"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," Hamilton said. "But the time is right for me to take this step and I'm excited to be taking on a new challenge." 

File photo dated 15-11-2020 of Mercedes AMG F1's Lewis Hamilton celebrates with his dog Roscoe and his team after winning the Turkish Grand Prix to secure his seventh world championship at Istanbul Park, Turkey.
The vast bulk of Lewis Hamilton's success in F1 came with the German-owned, British-based Mercedes team over the past decadeImage: PA Wire/empics/picture alliance

Hamilton spent the first six seasons of his F1 career with McLaren, winning one of his championships there, but even there he was powered by a Mercedes engine.

He added that he wanted to end his time with Mercedes on a high and was "100% committed to delivering the best performance I can this season and making my last year with the Silver Arrows, one to remember." 

Red Bull dominance halted Hamilton's run in 2021

The performance of Mercedes and Hamilton, who were all-conquering between 2014 and 2020, has dipped against its rivals — and particularly Red Bull — in recent years. 

Hamilton has not won a grand prix since the second-to-last race of the 2021 season in Saudi Arabia. 

Red Bull's Max Verstappen has won the last three world championships, and he claimed the 2023 title at a positive canter, leaving all his competitors far in his wake. 

Why Ferrari? 

During the most recent two seasons, Ferrari has been able to snatch a handful of race wins amid Red Bull's dominance. Mercedes, meanwhile, has won just the one, in Brazil in 2022, with Hamilton's younger British teammate George Russell claiming that victory. This dip cost Hamilton another of his unequaled personal F1 records; until the 2022 season, he had won at least one race in every single year in which he had competed. 

But the allure of Ferrari's tradition in the sport, as the only founding competitor that's been part of the series without interruption ever since the 1950s, and its enormous fan base might well be as big a consideration for Hamilton as on-track prospects. 

Ferrari probably remain the most popular team on the grid, even if very often they're striving in vain to compete right at the front of the field. 

Hamilton famously spoke about this allure in Italy in 2019, amid rumors at the time that a move to Ferrari might be in the cards. He noted how impressive the podium celebrations at Monza were, where "90-plus per cent is all Ferrari fans," often celebrating even if he and Mercedes had spoiled their weekend. 

Hamilton would have a first-hand view of this later that same weekend, as he finished second to Ferrari's Charles Leclerc in that race. 

"I appreciate and respect them a huge amount, and in fact when I now come, a lot of Ferrari fans ask me to come to Ferrari. So it's quite cool," Hamilton had said at the time. 

The only other team on the grid likely to tempt Hamilton at present would probably be Red Bull, but they have made it clear they have no plans to partner Hamilton with Verstappen. The pair's relationship has been fractious at best over the years competing against each other.

msh/sms (AFP, dpa, Reuters)