F1 star Lewis Hamilton will leave Mercedes at the end of the upcoming season and join Ferrari in 2025.
“I have had an amazing 11 years with this team and I’m so proud of what we have achieved together,” the 39-year-old British driver 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.”
Ferrari confirmed on X that he would join “on a multi-year contract” in 2025 – fans seemed to approve, with 176,000 likes in the first 40 minutes.
The seven-time champion is expected to replace Carlos Sainz at the iconic Italian team.
Sainz’s contract expires at the end of 2024, while Ferrari’s other driver, Charles Leclerc, recently agreed a new long-term deal.
Hamilton had previously been linked with Ferrari, but signed a two-year contract worth £100m last summer to stay at Mercedes.
The move ends an extraordinary partnership, with Hamilton winning six world titles between 2014 to 2020.
However, Mercedes have since fallen off the pace and he hasn’t won a race since 2021.
The team said Hamilton had triggered a release clause included in the deal he signed last year.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said the link-up had been the most successful team-driver partnership the sport had ever seen.
“However, we knew our partnership would come to a natural end at some point, and that day has now come,” said Wolff.
“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.”
Hamilton said in his statement he would be “forever grateful” for Mercedes’ “incredible support” and Wolff’s friendship and leadership.
“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,” he added.
The new season begins with the Bahrain Grand Prix on 28 February.
‘Dreams’ of being in red
Hamilton told ESPN last year he would be “lying” if he said he had “never thought about ending my career anywhere else”.
“I thought about and watched the Ferrari drivers on the screens at the track and, of course, you wonder what it would be like to be in red,” he added.
Former world champion Damon Hill said Hamilton was likely to still be smarting from the 2021 season, when he lost the lead in the last moments of the final race – and with it the title – after a controversial restart.
Hill told Sky that Hamilton had “been licking his wounds”.
“Maybe he didn’t think there were strong enough signs from Mercedes that they’d solved their problems, that they were going to give him an all-conquering car,” said Hill.
“He doesn’t want to hang around to make up numbers.
“Maybe Ferrari is just that added spice that you need to motivate yourself one more time for another last push at it – and what a way to go out if you’re with Ferrari.”
Asked if the move would improve his chances of winning another title, Hill said that might not be the point.
“If Ferrari’s chances are as good as Mercedes’, then why not Ferrari? Ferrari has that cachet,” he said.
“It’s also something different, there’s always a spring in your step if you change to a new team, the optimism of going somewhere different”.