As the calendar page turned to the dawn of a new month, the morning barrage of Formula 1 (F1) notifications from your go-to sports apps on February 1 likely had you checking the date to see whether it was April. 

In what will go down as one of the most shocking driver moves in F1 history, numerous media outlets reported that Lewis Hamilton — the most decorated motorsport athlete of all time — would be leaving the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team at the end of 2024. Following 12 seasons alongside the Brackley-based outfit, the seven-time world champion will join Scuderia Ferrari on a multi-year contract in 2025. Hamilton has won six of his seven drivers’ titles and eight consecutive constructors’ titles with Mercedes between 2014 and 2021. 

Hamilton signed a brand new two-year deal with Mercedes in August 2023 that was meant to run until the end of the 2025 season. But Hamilton activated a release clause in the contract, allowing him to jump into a trademark Rosso Corsa race suit and steer for the Prancing Horse –– a dream come true, apparently, for the century race winner. 

“I feel incredibly fortunate, after achieving things with Mercedes that I could only have dreamed of as a kid, that I now have the chance to fulfill another childhood dream. Driving in Ferrari red,” Hamilton wrote on Instagram to his 36.3 million followers. 

Although he created the most dominant F1 driver-team partnership with the Silver Arrows, Hamilton has failed to tally a single Grand Prix (GP) victory since the ground effects rule change in 2022, which introduced a new generation of F1 cars. Hamilton’s last time on the podium’s top step was at the inaugural Saudi Arabian GP –– the 2021 season’s penultimate race. 

With Mercedes seemingly falling short of meeting the 39-year-old’s waning expectations to produce a title-winning race craft, it grew apparent that Hamilton would eventually turn elsewhere in the hopes of securing a record-breaking eighth drivers’ championship. Now that we’ll see the 104-time pole sitter sporting red in 2025, it’s worthwhile to look at the ripple effects of this blockbuster transfer.

New team, familiar faces 

When he arrives at his new team, a few familiar faces will welcome Hamilton in the paddock. Frédéric Vasseur — the Italian manufacturer’s team principal — worked with Hamilton when he raced for Vasseur’s ART GP team. Under the Frenchman’s leadership, Hamilton won his Formula 3 Euro and GP2 Series championships. 

Hamilton is also close with the Maranello-based squad’s president, John Elkann. The two met at a Google event in Italy many years ago and have remained in contact ever since. 

Additionally, at Ferrari, Hamilton will pair up with Charles Leclerc. The Monégasque pilot has long been complimentary of Hamilton’s illustrious career. 

“If I say yes, I imagine it being the title of every newspaper. But I mean, Lewis is such an incredible driver and has achieved so much in the sport. So, I think anybody on the grid will love to have Lewis as a teammate, as everybody will learn a lot from him,” expressed Leclerc in 2023. 

Who replaces Hamilton at Mercedes? 

Over half of the F1 grid will see their contracts expire at the end of the 2024 season. This means that the Silver Arrows have a large pool of free agents to select from when determining who will fill the shoes of their poster child. 

Hamilton is replacing Carlos Sainz at Ferrari –– the only non-Red Bull GP winner in 2023. Sainz could go straight to Brackley and effectively elicit a straight swap deal. He is an attractive option, given his experience and proven track record of consistency during his short stint with Scuderia. 

Other potential alternates for Hamilton include Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso, former Mercedes junior program driver Esteban Ocon, and Formula 2 prodigy Andrea Kimi Antonelli, among others. Ultimately, whoever the German manufacturer decides to sign will face a tall task when placed in one of the most coveted seats in motorsports. 

Money talks 

Due to his sponsorship package, the commercial value of Hamilton’s Ferrari deal is more lucrative than any other signing in history. On top of a 100 million Euro yearly salary, Hamilton’s switch to Ferrari increased the company’s value by seven billion USD and contributed to a 10 per cent increase in the share price –– a record high on the New York Stock Exchange.

It’s the end of an era for Mercedes, and the start of a new one at Ferrari. Regardless of the outcome, the partnership of F1’s most successful driver and team is taking shape — and it still doesn’t feel real.