While Red Bull has crushed the competition in the last two years, Ferrari and Mercedes have had close battles in both years for second place in the constructors’ championship, with Ferrari finishing ahead in 2022 and Mercedes finishing ahead last year.
It’s far from clear that Hamilton would be better positioned to achieve his goal of an eighth championship at Ferrari, which has struggled in recent years.
Ferrari has not won a drivers’ championship since 2007, despite signing all-time greats like Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel since then. The team has suffered from a series of mechanical failures and strategy errors during races in recent years, but it remains the prestige name in the sport.
The surprise news comes just over a month before the new season begins with the Bahrain Grand Prix on March 2.
“I will be forever grateful for the incredible support of my Mercedes family, especially Toto [Wolff] 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,” Hamilton said Thursday in his statement.
Hamilton was rumored last year to be mulling a future move to Ferrari, but he shot down those rumors during the Monaco Grand Prix.
“Naturally when you’re in contract negotiations, there’s always going to be speculation. And I think ultimately that’s — unless you hear from me, then that’s all it is,” Hamilton said, joking that they may have been the result of reporters’ being “bored” between races.
Leclerc also addressed questions at the time about whether he would welcome Hamilton on the team.
“Lewis is such an incredible driver, has achieved so much in the sport. So I think anybody on the grid would love to have Lewis as a teammate, as everybody would learn a lot from him,” Leclerc said at the time, adding that he was happy to have Sainz as a teammate.