Why is Lewis Hamilton leaving Mercedes, and who will replace him?

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The announcement that Lewis Hamilton will move from Mercedes to Ferrari in the 2025 season has come as a thunderbolt. Why is Lewis Hamilton leaving, and who will replace him?

The 2021 season was a key moment in Lewis Hamilton’s career at Mercedes. Losing the title on the last lap to Max Verstappen took its toll on the seven-time world champion. It was a unique moment when Lewis Hamilton could have become the most successful driver in Formula 1 history with eight titles. But the Briton was left with seven titles (2008, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020), tied with Michael Schumacher.
Hamilton has 98 pole positions, 155 podiums, 95 GP wins, while Schumacher has 68 pole positions, 91 GP wins, and 165 podiums.

Racing for Mercedes since 2013, Hamilton is in his 12th season with Mercedes. But in the last two seasons, the car has not been as competitive, so Hamilton has not been able to break Schumacher’s record and has had to watch how Max Verstappen dominate F1.

The 39-year-old Briton (born 7 January 1985) is at an age when other Formula 1 drivers have long since given up their careers. So, for him, time is running out, and Hamilton has probably thought he could benefit from a more competitive car to help him break Schumacher’s record.

Mercedes confirmed on 1 February 2024 that Hamilton will leave the team at the end of the 2024 season.
“We knew that our partnership would come to a natural end at some point, and that day has now come. We accept Lewis’ decision to take on a new challenge while offering us exciting opportunities for the future,” team boss Toto Wolff said.

Following Mercedes’ announcement, Ferrari confirmed Hamilton’s transfer with a short social media post in which the Italians spoke of a multi-year contract. Hamilton will compete for Ferrari until at least the end of 2026, so a minimum of two seasons.

Mercedes explained a few months ago that Hamilton had a contract until the end of 2025 but that there was a clause that he could break it in the middle of the period.

It’s obviously a huge loss for Mercedes even though, at 39, Hamilton is old for a Formula 1 driver. On the other hand, Lewis won’t be easy to replace.

Who can replace him?

First of all, it is clear that in 2025, Carlos Sainz, who recently expressed his desire to extend his contract with Ferrari, will have to look for a team. His contract expires at the end of 2024. There are rumors that Sainz could go to Sauber in 2025 before joining Audi in 2026. His father won the Paris-Dakar rally for the fourth time driving an Audi, and given Sainz senior’s excellent relationship with Audi, it’s possible that Sainz Jr. will also race for Audi.

Sainz Jr. made a statement on social media announcing his forced departure from Ferrari:

“After today’s news, Ferrari and I will go our separate ways at the end of 2024. We still have a strong season planned for us. As always, I will do my best for the team and the Tiosi around the world. Further news about my future will be announced in the near future.”

ANDREA KIMI ANTONELLI, 17 YEARS 
The 17-year-old Italian has not yet made his Formula 2 debut, but is considered a great talent for the future and is already under contract with Mercedes. He’s too young at the moment but could be a solution for the future.

MICK SCHUMACHER, 24 YEARS
Michael Schumacher’s son is the official reserve, but the 2021 and 2022 seasons at Hass have not been great. He’s now on the endurance driver list at Renault-owned Alpine. Although he is the son of Michael Schumacher, who was a junior at Mercedes and raced for the German team, his son seems to have little chance compared to other options.

VALTTERI BOTTAS, 34 YEARS
Compete for Mercedes before being replaced by Russell. His contract with Sauber runs out at the end of the year, so he will be available. He knows the team well, but it’s hard to see him coming back.

FERNANDO ALONSO, 42 YEARS
He’s a renowned driver with two world championship titles, and is ending his contract with Aston Martin at the end of the season, so he will be available. He is 42, but on the other hand, he has shown he is still very competitive.

SEBASTIAN VETTEL, 36 YEARS
Never say never. Could Mercedes persuade the four-time world champion to return to Mercedes as Schumacher did in 2010? Vettel left a door open when he left Aston Martin in 2022.

ESTEBAN OCON, 27 YEARS 
Ocon is in the eighth season in F1 and fifth with Renault/Alpine. In the 2019 season, he was a reserve driver for Mercedes and was very close in 2020 to replace Bottas, but Mercedes decided to continue with Bottas.