Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes looks on at the Mercedes GP Team Photo during previews ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi at Yas Marina Circuit on November 23, 2023 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Clive Rose | Getty Images Sport | Getty Images
Former Formula One drivers believe Lewis Hamilton’s blockbuster move to one of the most iconic teams in motorsport represents a major coup for the auto racing league.
Mercedes on Thursday confirmed that the seven-time world champion will join Ferrari in 2025 after activating a release option in his contract.
It will bring an end to a 12-year team-driver pairing for Mercedes and Hamilton, one that team principal Toto Wolff described as “the most successful the sport has seen.”
Now recognized as a global icon, Hamilton first signed with Mercedes in 2013 and went on to win six of his seven world titles with the team between 2014 and 2020.
An extraordinary run of success has since dried up, however, and Hamilton has not won a race since the Saudi Arabia Grand Prix in Dec. 2021.
“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,” Hamilton said in a statement. “But the time is right for me to take this step and I’m excited to be taking on a new challenge.”
Ferrari, meanwhile, released a short statement saying the team was “pleased” to announce Hamilton would join on a multi-year contract.
The news sent shockwaves through F1, with 2009 world champion Jenson Button saying he’d also been taken by surprise.
“This is massive for the sport,” Button told Sky Sports F1 on Thursday. Button competed on the same McLaren team as Hamilton from 2010 to 2012.
“Having this shift for Ferrari is massive. I think it is great for the sport. Everyone is going to be having their eyes on Formula 1, especially Ferrari and Lewis,” he added.
Asked why Hamilton may have decided to make the move for the 2025 season, Button replied: “Obviously 12 years at Mercedes is longer than most people spend in Formula One. To spend it with one team and achieve what they have, maybe he also wanted something different to spice it up a little bit.”
“It’s a big deal and I cannot wait to see how he goes in the Ferrari,” Button said.
The prospect of Hamilton joining Ferrari had long been the subject of intense speculation, although Hamilton had previously said he intended to stay with Mercedes for the rest of his life.
“Something has obviously changed, where he either doesn’t like what he is seeing at Mercedes or he just wanted a new challenge [for] this final phase of his Grand Prix career and he’s made the jump,” Martin Brundle, a former Formula One driver and commentator, told Sky News on Thursday.
“I think the lure was just too great for him — and it’s great for Formula One and it’s great for us.”
Brundle said one reason why Hamilton may have decided to make the switch could be a forthcoming rules revamp, with new regulations in 2026 set to increase the electrical performance of F1 engines.
The scheduled reset is the first major shake-up of the rules since 2014.
Third placed Carlos Sainz of Spain and Ferrari celebrates on the podium during the F1 Grand Prix of Italy at Autodromo Nazionale Monza on September 03, 2023 in Monza, Italy.
Dan Istitene – Formula 1 | Formula 1 | Getty Images
“Remember, a lot of us were surprised when Lewis left McLaren to go to Mercedes Benz but they through [then team principal] Ross Brawn and others had demonstrated to Lewis that ‘look, when this reset comes in 2014, we think we’re ahead of the game,'” Brundle said.
“If Ferrari are saying, ‘we think we are going to ace the 2026 regulation’ … it’s a bit of an action replay in that respect from when Lewis went from McLaren,” he continued. “It was difficult for Mercedes at the beginning but then of course they just turned into absolutely dominant winning machines.”
Oscar Pisatri, an Australian racing driver racing for McLaren, appeared to sum up the feeling from the other drivers on the grid after Thursday’s announcement.
In a post on social media site X, Pisatri said: “Just been for a run. Have I missed anything?”
The start of the next Formula One season gets underway in Bahrain from Feb. 29.