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Seven-time Formula 1 champ Lewis Hamilton leaving Mercedes for Ferrari after 2024 season

The seven-time champion signed a contract extension with Mercedes that began after the 2023 season

FILE - Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain walks past Ferrari fans during a fan meeting at the Suzuka Circuit in Suzuka, central Japan, Oct. 6, 2016. Seven-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton has been linked with a shock move from Mercedes to Ferrari next year. (AP Photo/Toru Takahashi, File)
Could Lewis Hamilton be leaving Mercedes for Ferrari in 2025? (AP Photo/Toru Takahashi, File) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Lewis Hamilton is leaving Mercedes for Ferrari.

Ferrari announced Thursday afternoon that it had signed Hamilton for the 2025 season. Hamilton recently signed what was reported to be a two-year contract extension with Mercedes that kicked in after the 2023 season. Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz’s contract runs through the 2024 season and he's the odd man out. Hamilton will team with Charles Leclerc, who recently signed a contract extension with Ferrari.

Hamilton, 39, is Formula 1’s biggest star. He has the most wins of anyone in F1 history and is tied with Michael Schumacher for the most championships. He was on the verge of breaking that tie with Schumacher at the end of the 2021 season before breaks in F1 protocol during a late caution flag gave Max Verstappen the chance to pass Hamilton with fresher tires on the final lap of the final race of the season to win the title.

Verstappen has been the dominant driver in Formula 1 since he got past Hamilton in Abu Dhabi over two years ago. He easily won the 2022 and 2023 titles and his 2023 season was the most dominant in Formula 1 history as he won 19 of 22 races and had just one finish outside the top three.

Hamilton has been publicly committed to getting Mercedes back ahead of Red Bull since Verstappen’s emergence. Hamilton moved to Mercedes from McLaren ahead of the 2013 season and immediately became a massive F1 legend.

After winning a title and 17 races in six years at McLaren, Hamilton made a similar stunning move to Mercedes after the 2012 season. Hamilton then won six championships in seven seasons from 2014-20 as Mercedes became Formula 1’s powerhouse team.

Mercedes won the constructor’s title in 2021 as Verstappen clipped Hamilton for the driver title, but the team has been playing catch-up to Red Bull since new rules were implemented across F1 before the 2022 season. It’s very easy to see how a move to Ferrari is a sign that Hamilton doesn’t have the confidence in Mercedes to catch Red Bull in the near future.

Mercedes said in a statement Thursday afternoon that Hamilton had exercised an option in the contract extension that he had signed in August.

“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 Mercedes 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. 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.”

Ferrari, meanwhile, finished behind Mercedes in the constructor’s standings in 2023. While Ferrari had more pace than Mercedes at times — and Sainz got the only win that Red Bull drivers didn’t a season ago — blunders and reliability issues meant Ferrari finished third.

When the move takes effect, Hamilton will join Schumacher as world champions who have driven for both Mercedes and Ferrari. If Hamilton is able to win a world title with Ferrari, he'll be the first Formula 1 driver since Juan Manuel Fangio to win championships with three teams.