Lewis Hamilton described leaving Mercedes as “one of the hardest decisions” of his life but said the time was right for a move away.
The seven-time World Champion’s immediate future was brought into sharp focus on Thursday when incredible reports suggested he was braced for a stunning move away from Mercedes and into the arms of Ferrari.
Mercedes have confirmed their end of the agreement, stating Hamilton will leave the team after opting to use the exit clause placed in the contract he signed in August. Ferrari confirmed the arrival of Hamilton 10 minutes later.
Lewis Hamilton reflects on 11-year Mercedes tenure as departure confirmed
Hamilton is to move to Ferrari in what will be just the third team of his long, storied career. But looking back, the 39-year-old thanked Mercedes for the support they gave him during his stint with the team.
“I have had an amazing 11 years with this team and I’m so proud of what we have achieved together,” Hamilton 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.
“But the time is right for me to take this step and I’m excited to be taking on a new challenge. I will be forever grateful for the incredible support of my Mercedes family, especially Toto 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.”
It is no secret that Ferrari has held a place in Hamilton’s heart and he has been linked with a move to Maranello on a number of occasions over his career.
Speaking last year, he admitted that he used to dream of racing in the famous red.
“I’d be lying if I said I’d never thought about ending my career anywhere else,” he said. “I started at McLaren, I’d like to think I’ll always be a part of the McLaren family.
“I started there when I was 13 years old so I thought about what it would look like if I was at McLaren one day. I thought about and watched the Ferrari drivers on the screens at the track and of course you wonder what it would be like to be in red.
“For many years, when I came to Monza, walking next to the fans, I could hear them saying, ‘Come to Ferrari!’ This warmed my heart, but it’s pretty amazing that I’ve never driven for Ferrari in so many years.
“Because it is a dream for anyone, a goal to be achieved. It was never really been possible and I will never quite know exactly why. I wish them the best and in my near future I hope I will continue to prevent them from winning the world championship. I have a couple of Ferraris at home. I can drive those, but not the Ferrari F1.”