Hamilton swaps Mercedes for Ferrari in 2025: the fallout from F1’s biggest move in decades

Published: 01 February 2024 Updated: 02 February 2024

► Hamilton to leave Mercedes at the end of 2024 season
► Replaces Carlos Sainz Jr at Ferrari
► Maranello confirms ‘multi-year’ dea
It’s official: after an eleven-year relationship that has seen eight successive constructors’ titles and six drivers’ championships, Lewis Hamilton is leaving the Mercedes F1 team.  He’ll replace Carlos Sainz Jr in a multi-year contract.

Mercedes has revealed the seven-time world champion activated a release clause in his last contract, and it means he’ll race for the team in 2024 – but not the year after: “I have had an amazing 11 years with this team and I’m so proud of what we have achieved together,’ he said. ‘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.’ 

It’s not the first time Hamilton has made a move to shock the paddock: back in 2013 he moved to a frontrunning McLaren to the largely competitive Silver Arrows – and we all know how that turned out. But this time is a little different; McLaren had been off the boil for at least four years compared to Mercedes’ two, and Mercedes and Hamilton have also achieved six WDCs, compared to McLaren and Hamilton’s one. 

It’s got to be one of the biggest moves in the modern F1 era; the only thing comparable at this stage comes from MotoGP, where multiple champion and long-time Honda rider Marc Marquez just moved to a privateer Ducati team. It leaves Ferrari with arguably the strongest line-up in F1 in 2025, and Mercedes needing a replacement to race alongside George Russell.

So what’s caused one of the biggest moves in the modern F1 era, and what could happen?

The impact

The first thing to think about is the timing: Hamilton’s announcement comes at a particularly sensitive point for both himself and Mercedes. Having just completed his seat fitting for the 2024 car, we’re just weeks away from official start to the 2024 season in Bahrain – and it’s a season with a lot on the line for Mercedes. The Brackley-based team dropped the ball in a big way in 2022 and had a winless 2023. In 2024 – with James Allison at the helm – the team needs to return to winning ways. Having any driver commit to 2025 with another team at this point would be disruptive, let alone a driver of Hamilton’s calibre. 

The possible reasons for the move

It also makes you wonder the reasons for the change: 23 and 22 seasons aside, it’s possible Hamilton has lost faith in the performance of the Mercedes team, and that includes James Allison. The regulations won’t change until 2026, but Hamilton must have more faith in Maranello’s interpretation of the rules than Mercedes. 

Some sources suggest that the move is related to Loic Serra, the current head of performance at the Mercedes team. Reports suggest that like Hamilton, he felt a change a different direction was needed for the 2022 and 2023 cars – and he’ll also soon be working with Ferrari in 2025. 

With Fred Vasseur at the helm, Ferrari will be a very different animal to the team that reported to Mattia Binotto, and it’s possible Hamilton has been convinced by the new team boss’ plan, as well we Maranello’s extensive resources. Of course, the romance of joining the Scuderia has to be up there too, as it’s certainly been the case for Hamilton’s contemporaries; Alonso and Vettel both moved to Ferrari later on in their careers.

Interestingly, Hamilton’s deal also begins (at least) just one year before a huge change in powertrain regulations. And while Mercedes dominated the hybrid era early on, it’s arguable that Maranello produced the better (mainly legal) engine from 2018 onwards – and perhaps Hamilton has seen enough to jump to Maranello early. 

What’s in it for Ferrari? 

For the last few years, Charles Leclerc has been the poster boy of the Maranello team – and it’s easy to see why. Lightning quick and with close quarter skills often more than a match for Max Verstappen, the Monegasue is oen of the best drivers in the sport right now – and has rightly been rewarded with another multi-year contract. 

Lewis Hamilton’s arrival will add experience and further speed to the mix, in a time of further rule changes, and he’ll also bring some of Mercedes’ thorough working culture – something that’s been sorely missing from Maranello’s error-strewn on– and off–track performances. 

What will happen in 2025? 

Unlike 2013, Hamilton is moving from one front runner to another, so there’s far less risk involved than his jump from McLaren to Mercedes. Ferrari have been a front-running team for over a decade now, and they remain Red Bull’s closest challenger ahead of the 2024 season. It’s hard to see anything other than multiple podiums and possible wins with Ferrari, and if they could well be even closer than before. 

What’s also interesting is the relationship between Hamilton, and his likely teammate Charles Leclerc. Easily one of the fastest drivers over one lap, Leclerc is widely regarded as one of the most talented, complete drivers on the grid, and one thoroughly embedded in Ferrari. It’ll be interesting to Hamilton matched against the next generation, and in a team that – for the first time in many years – hasn’t been moulded around him. 

By Curtis Moldrich

CAR's Digital Editor, F1 and sim-racing enthusiast. Partial to clever tech and sports bikes