F1

Lewis Hamilton: I am writing my story and it was time to start a new chapter

The Briton will join Ferrari next year.

Lewis Hamilton will drive for Ferrari in 2025
Lewis Hamilton Lewis Hamilton will drive for Ferrari in 2025 (Tim Goode/PA)

Lewis Hamilton said he chose to turn his back on Mercedes and join rivals Ferrari to write “a new chapter” in his record-breaking career.

The seven-time world champion was speaking for the first time at length since his shock blockbuster move to the Italian giants in 2025 was confirmed earlier this month.

Hamilton’s soon-to-be Ferrari team led the way on the concluding day of this week’s test in Bahrain, with Charles Leclerc seeing off Mercedes’ George Russell by just 0.046 seconds.

But it is Max Verstappen’s Red Bull team who head into next Saturday’s curtain raiser, also in the Gulf kingdom, as the favourites, despite the ongoing investigation into their embattled team principal Christian Horner. Horner continues to deny the claims against him.

Hamilton, who joined Mercedes from McLaren in 2013, signed a two-year contract extension with the Silver Arrows only last August.

But over the winter he elected to terminate his £100million deal 12 months early to make the switch.

“Obviously in the summer we signed and at that time I saw my future with Mercedes,” Hamilton explained. “But an opportunity came up in the new year and I decided to take it.

“I feel like it was the hardest decision I have ever had to make. I have had a relationship with Mercedes since I was 13. They have supported me and we have had an incredible journey together and created history within the sport. It is something I take a lot of pride in.

“But ultimately I am writing my story and I felt like it was time to start a new chapter.”

Mercedes have carried Hamilton to six of his record-equalling seven titles.

But last year marked a second straight season without a victory for the British driver – a losing streak which now stands at 45 races – and Mercedes’ first winless campaign in a dozen years.

Ferrari have not won a drivers’ championship since Kimi Raikkonen triumphed for them in 2007.

And two decades will have passed since Michael Schumacher took his fifth consecutive title for the team in 2004 when Hamilton links up with Ferrari at the start of next year.

“All of us sit in our garages and you see the screen pop up, you see a driver in the red cockpit and you wonder what it will be like to be surrounded by the red,” added Hamilton.

“You go to the Italian Grand Prix and you see the sea of red of Ferrari fans and you can only stand in awe of that.

“It is a team that has not had huge success since Michael’s days and I see it as a huge challenge.

“As a kid I used to to play the Grand Prix 2 computer game as Michael in that (Ferrari) car. It is definitely a dream and I am really excited about it.”

Lewis Hamilton said Ferrari team principal Fred Vassuer was instrumental in him switching teams
Ferrari team principal Fred Vassuer Lewis Hamilton said Ferrari team principal Fred Vassuer was instrumental in him switching teams (Tim Goode/PA)

Hamilton said the biggest transfer in F1 history would not have happened if Fred Vasseur – the Frenchman who played a prominent role in his formative career – had not been appointed as Ferrari team principal last year.

Hamilton continued: “I have got a great relationship with Fred. I raced for him in Formula Three and we had amazing success in Formula Three and GP2 and that is where the foundation of our relationship started.

“We always remained in touch. I thought he was going to be an amazing team manager at some stage and progress to Formula One. It was really cool to see him at Alfa Romeo and when he got the job at Ferrari I was just so happy for him. The stars aligned and it would not have happened without him.”

As for learning the lingo, the Stevenage-born racer, added: “In all these years I have not managed to learn other languages, but I will definitely try. I do remember when I was younger and karting in Italy I was able to pick up a few lines. Hopefully that will come back to me.”

Ferrari might have finished on top on Friday, but the consensus in the paddock is that Red Bull have significantly improved the machine which won all bar one of the 22 rounds last year.

“Our car is more enjoyable to drive and it is an improvement,” said Hamilton. “But we still have some time to find. Red Bull are out in the distance.”

Ominously, Verstappen, bidding to win his fourth straight title, said: “For sure, the car is better than it was last year.”