The upcoming Formula 1 season has yet to make it to the starting line, yet its most audacious development is now upon us.
Lewis Hamilton, the winningest driver in the sport’s history, is changing teams from Mercedes-AMG Petronas to Ferrari, the latter announced on Thursday. The British racer will drive for Mercedes this season, before replacing Carlos Sainz at Ferrari next year on a multi-year contract.
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The news broke just one week after Ferrari, the most experienced and winningest constructor in F1 history, announced that they had re-signed driver Charles Leclerc to a long-term deal running through the end of the 2029 season. That announcement curiously made no mention of Leclerc’s teammate, Carlos Sainz, the only non-Red Bull driver to win a race in 2023 and whose current deal is scheduled to expire at the end of this season. Now we might know why.
Early Thursday, the Italian publication formu1a.uno reported that Ferrari wanted to replace Sainz with Hamilton. The driver and constructor have been linked together countless times in the past, but unlike those instances, the two parties are finally ready to join forces. The formu1a.uno story was initially backed up by reports from Planet F1, Sky Sports, ESPN, and The Guardian.
It’s a big deal when any of the drivers near the top of the grid switch seats, but especially when the person changing teams is a living legend. Hamilton is unquestionably one of the best to ever race in F1, if not the best, and shares the record for most World Driver Championship titles with Michael Schumacher at seven. That alone would ensure him racing immortality, but he’s also sole owner of the competition’s records for most victories (103), most pole positions (104), a podium finishes (197).
Hamilton has been one of F1’s best drivers since the start of his career—he won his first driver’s championship for McLaren in 2008, when he was 23—the bulk of his success has come since joining Mercedes in 2013. Since then, he’s won six driver’s championships and 82 races. Last fall, Mercedes and Hamilton announced they had re-upped his deal for two years, but it now appears that the extension was a one-year deal with the option of a second season.
Around that time, Hamilton gave an interview to Blick in which he said he’d talked to Ferrari several times in his career, but “never felt ready to move to Italy.” That no longer would seem to be the case.
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