Lewis Hamilton is close to completing a sensational switch from Mercedes to Ferrari in 2025, multiple sources told ESPN.
Hamilton, a seven-time world champion and the driver with the most F1 wins in history, signed what was believed to be a two-year contract extension with Mercedes last year, but it appears the second year of that now may well have been an option.
Mercedes and Ferrari both declined to comment to ESPN.
Although not confirmed officially, sources told ESPN the deal is as good as done, with the move seeing Hamilton replace Spanish driver Carlos Sainz.
Ferrari, which has competed in every season of F1 and is often said to have a greater pull than any other, has not won a drivers title since Kimi Raikkonen did it in 2007.
Hamilton, tied with Ferrari legend Michael Schumacher with seven titles, now has a chance to end the Ferrari drought and move clear as F1’s most decorated champion in the process.
Were he to do so, he would become the first driver to win championships with three different teams since Juan Manuel Fangio in 1957.
Hamilton, 39, has been frequently linked with Ferrari, the sport’s most successful team, throughout his career but looked set to finish his career with Mercedes.
Last season, before signing his Mercedes extension, Hamilton laughed off suggestions of a move to the Italian team, but it appears as though negotiations have picked up steam in the past few months.
One source told ESPN that Ferrari chairman John Elkann is determined to land a big-name signing for Ferrari.
Elkann is known to have been a big admirer of Hamilton for a while.
Ferrari had at least one world champion driver at the team from 1996, when Schumacher arrived, to 2020, when Sebastian Vettel left at the end of the year. In 2021 Sainz joined Charles Leclerc, who recently signed a long extension believed to tie him down at Ferrari beyond 2026.
Ferrari team boss Frederic Vasseur worked with Hamilton in his junior career, helping guide the Brit to a title in GP2 (now Formula 2) with the ART team in 2006, and has also likely played a key role in the negotiations.
Ferrari has been stalling on a similar extension for Sainz, who now appears to be set to be a major cog in driver market developments going forward.
Sainz had been widely tipped to be a candidate for Audi’s incoming F1 project in 2026, but he now looks set to be out of a drive one year early.
Former Red Bull product Sainz now could now be an outside bet for a return to his former employer in 2025, with Sergio Perez’s future still a massive question-mark, and would also be a strong option for Mercedes in filling the gap left by Hamilton.
Hamilton’s departure will leave a huge void at Mercedes, who he joined in 2013.
He won six drivers championships with the team, adding to his 2008 title with McLaren, and was with the team for its record run of eight constructors championships between 2014 and 2021.
First appeared on africa.espn.com