Carlos Sainz admitted Lewis Hamilton’s shock transfer to Ferrari came out of the blue.

Hamilton, 39, will leave Mercedes at the end of the year to replace the Spaniard in 2025.

Speaking for the first time about the biggest transfer in Formula One history, Sainz said: “I was a bit surprised, like everyone in the Formula One world.

“From my side you can understand I got to know the news a bit earlier than anyone else and I had some weeks to reflect and prepare and some weeks to also get ready for the car launch and the first race of the season.

“That gave me a bit of time to digest it and to draw my own conclusions and to focus on the 2024 season.

“I have had lot of messages of support which I would like to thank the F1 world for and friends back at home, who have been very supportive and very encouraging.”

Sainz, 29, was speaking at Ferrari’s launch as they unveiled the challenger they hope will be able to challenge Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.

However, Hamilton’s switch to Ferrari leaves two-time race winner Sainz looking for a seat.

Sainz, the only driver outside of Red Bull to claim a victory last year, said: “My next team, I don’t know yet and I have time to decide when that happens next. There are plenty of options out there.

“I am approaching the most important three or four years of my career and I want to make sure that I am in the right place.

“I am going to listen to all the options so when I take the decision I have give myself enough time with enough information.

“It is completely possible to separate one from the other. I have a good management team that will take care of that so my full focus will be on the first race in Bahrain and I am going to start the season as strongly as I can. The other thing will sort itself out as time goes by.

“The fact that I am not going to be a Ferrari driver in 2025 does not mean we don’t want to become champions together this year or win races.”

Fernando Alonso believes he is an “attractive” candidate to replace Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes – but has denied holding talks with the Silver Arrows.

Hamilton, 39, is entering his final season with the team which carried him to six of his seven world championships after agreeing a shock move to Ferrari in 2025.

Hamilton’s departure from Mercedes will create a vacancy alongside George Russell, while Max Verstappen’s Red Bull team are also due to have a seat available with Sergio Perez’s contract expiring at the end of the season.

Alonso’s two-season deal with Aston Martin is up for renewal in 2025. It is understood the British team are keen to retain the double world champion’s services.

“I am aware of my situation which is very unique,” said Alonso, who won back-to-back world championships with Renault in 2004 and 2005.

“There are only three world champions on the grid and I am the only one available for 2025, so I am in a good position.

“On a move to Mercedes, there has been nothing at all. I know the driver market has started earlier this year, but this will not affect me in terms of preparing for the season.

“If I want to keep racing beyond this year, the first and only talk at the beginning will be Aston Martin. I trust this project and that will be my first priority.

“But if we cannot reach an agreement I know that I am attractive to other teams. I will not stay in Formula One just to have fun. I am not that kind of person and not that kind of driver. Let’s see what the options are.”

Commenting on Hamilton’s move to Ferrari, Alonso, who drove for the Italian team between 2010 and 2014 but fell short of winning the title, added: “It was a surprise, I will not lie, not because the change itself but from the outside it seemed like he was very linked to Mercedes and very loyal to Mercedes.

“Ferrari is a special team but it is more special when you win. Maybe Lewis can bring that extra fight for the championship because the car is there.”

Alonso finished fourth in last year’s drivers’ championship as his Aston Martin transformed from also-rans to frontrunners.

Alonso scored six podiums in the opening eight rounds and might have ended his 10-year wait for victory had his team’s strategy been more on point at the rain-hit Monaco Grand Prix.

The Silverstone-based team’s form fell away in the second half of the year but Alonso continued to out-perform his machinery, taking further podiums in the Netherlands and Brazil.

He ended the year 132 points and six places ahead of team-mate Lance Stroll – son of the team’s fashion billionaire owner Lawrence Stroll – and was voted third, behind Max Verstappen and Hamilton, by his fellow drivers and finished runner-up to Verstappen in a poll of the grid’s team bosses.

Alonso, 43, in July will this season become the first driver to take part in 400 grands prix and the evergreen Spaniard raised the prospect of competing deep into his forties.

He added: “A few years ago I would say 41 or 42 is the limit, but after last year I saw I was motivated, performing well, and I was thinking I could race a few more years.

“Now, this winter, I have exceeded expectations in terms of the physical tests, so if I am motivated and ready to commit, I can race until 48, 49 or maybe even 50.”

Pre-season testing starts in Bahrain a week on Wednesday ahead of the first race, also in the Gulf Kingdom, on March 2.

Fernando Alonso could be the ideal 'short-term fix' for Mercedes as they look to replace Lewis Hamilton, particularly after Lando Norris signed a new long-term contract with McLaren.

That is according to former Force India and Williams driver Paul di Resta, who even believes an ambitious swoop for three-time world champion Max Verstappen is not out of the question.

Seven-time drivers' champion Hamilton has activated a break clause in the two-year contract extension he signed with Mercedes last year, and the 2024 season will be his last with the team before he makes a blockbuster move to Ferrari.

For Mercedes, attention has turned to the candidates to replace Hamilton. Carlos Sainz – who will leave Ferrari to make room for Hamilton at the end of this year – has been touted as a possible target, though other names are also in the frame.

Norris was long thought to be a natural fit if either Mercedes or Red Bull found themselves with an empty seat, but the 24-year-old penned a "multi-year" extension with McLaren last month.

Di Resta thinks Norris would have been the go-to name for Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff, but with his future seemingly secure, long-term options appear thin on the ground.

"Where do they go? They found themselves a bit stuck because I think it was unexpected," Di Resta told Stats Perform of Mercedes' driver hunt. 

"When you look at the driver market, I was surprised to see Lando sign with McLaren for as long as he did, given there were Red Bull seats and potentially a Mercedes seat coming up. 

"The obvious choice for me, if I was Toto, would have been to go for Lando. Last year, I actually think he was next-best to Max in terms of the performance and where he was. 

"I think he was a step up even from Lewis over the course of the year, in what he was able to achieve. He had it under control, so that would have been where my attention went. 

"You can see Lando doesn't turn up to odd events and excel, he is very consistent over the course of the year and I think he's ready to fight for championships, but obviously that's gone." 

Some believe Mercedes could promote 17-year-old Andrea Kimi Antonelli from their junior team, but Di Resta thinks it is too soon for the teenage prodigy, suggesting two-time world champion Alonso – who is contracted to Aston Martin until the end of this year – as an alternative. 

"They need a short-term fix, they probably need a good name," he continued. "I wouldn't be surprised if Fernando fit that bill for the next year or two, until they reassess where they are if they're bringing through some young guys. 

"I've heard people talk about Antonelli, I can't see how he's ready, I can't see if somebody like that is ready to go up against Max and Lewis. 

"With the weight of a manufacturer like that on top of you, you don't want to hit that too hard too soon, you want to build the foundations of how you go about your Formula One racing first."

Di Resta does not expect Mercedes to rush their search for a successor, and he even suggested they could enquire about Verstappen's availability, pondering whether the Dutchman has a similar break clause to that recently activated by Hamilton.

"They've got some time. I don't think it's a decision they can rush into," Di Resta said. 

"At the start of the season, we're already talking about next year, but you never know, you could go and chase Max!

"I'm sure somebody like Max could equally have an option like Lewis had got, because when they are like Lewis, Max and Fernando, they mean as much as the team does."

Winning an eighth Formula One world championship with Ferrari would cement Lewis Hamilton's legacy, but that will be no easy task as the Scuderia go through an overdue rebuild.

That is the view of former Force India driver Paul di Resta, who believes Hamilton's move to Maranello will be "box office" for all F1 fans. 

The upcoming 2024 season will be Hamilton's last with Mercedes, with the seven-time drivers' champion activating a break clause in his contract with the team in order to join Ferrari from 2025.

Hamilton has endured a frustrating couple of years since missing out on an eighth world title – which would have seen him surpass Michael Schumacher for the outright record – to Max Verstappen at the end of a hotly contested 2021 season.

While Di Resta thinks Hamilton is joining Ferrari with the belief that they will offer him a better chance of returning to the top of the standings, he has warned things may not be so straightforward, with the team rebuilding after finishing third in the constructors' standings last season.

"I was surprised," Di Resta told Stats Perform. "For somebody who's been so successful and has driven a car powered by a Mercedes-Benz engine for every lap, for every bit of success he's had… To change that over at this point in your career, I think it's a big thing.

"I think he and Toto Wolff bounced off each other very well. You could see there was one goal, they seemed like they gelled together in the sense of where they wanted to go, to win this eighth title for Lewis.

"I think they set that up well, and it was good to have George [Russell] alongside him as well, who I think pushes Lewis, and I think Lewis excels under pressure. 

"That's the difference with him; when pressure is added, he steps up more than others. But somewhere within this, he's felt uncomfortable, to be persuaded to go to Ferrari.

"They're a team going through a rebuild at the moment, going through a big change in terms of how they go about racing… they had to because they let themselves down on a lot of occasions."

Taking Carlos Sainz's seat after the Spaniard failed to agree a new contract with Ferrari, Hamilton will race alongside Charles Leclerc, who finished second in the drivers' championship in 2022 but dropped to fifth last year.

While Di Resta is certain Hamilton has received assurances from Ferrari team principal Frederic Vasseur, he says there are no guarantees that the move will work out.

"Lewis has been convinced. He's obviously been given security, he's obviously been given something that's driven him," Di Resta said. 

"I think it's great news for Formula 1, to see him go there. It would be another step up if he wins another title, that would rubber stamp what has already been an incredible career, but it's a big task. 

"He's obviously got to get on top of Charles as well, who's been part of that family for a long time. I'm excited to see it. It could be box office."

Di Resta did, however, admit Hamilton made the right move when leaving McLaren for Mercedes in 2013, noting how his former McLaren team-mate Fernando Alonso has failed win a title since leaving Renault in 2007.

"If you look at what Lewis did, going from McLaren to Mercedes, there was a bit of vision there," he said. "I've always said, 'Is it skill or is it luck?' 

"You look at Fernando versus Lewis, Fernando seems to have made the wrong decisions at the wrong times. Lewis has made the right decisions and stepped forward. 

"Mercedes have lost out because it was unexpected, and if you look at what's been promised to Lewis from the Ferrari side, he's going there with a belief that they're going to do it.

"With how it plays out, I think the early days are going to be key to how successful it will be."

Christian Horner’s Formula One career remains in the balance after he was questioned by a lawyer for eight hours on Friday.

The embattled Red Bull team principal, 50, was answering an accusation of “inappropriate behaviour” by a female colleague – a claim he categorically denies.

Horner’s interview took place at a secret London location.

It had originally been diaried for Red Bull Racing’s Milton Keynes headquarters.

But such has been the level of interest in the allegations against Horner, which emerged publicly on Monday, a change in venue was sourced.

Neither Red Bull Racing, who last year helped Max Verstappen win his third world championship, nor its parent company Red Bull GmBH – who are carrying out the investigation – commented about the details of the hearing which the PA news agency understands started at 10am and ran until the early evening.

Red Bull are set to unveil their car for the new season next Thursday, and there had been a strong desire for Horner’s future to be resolved before then.

But sources have indicated that is now looking highly doubtful, with the likelihood of Horner facing subsequent rounds of questioning as he bids to prove his innocence.

Indeed, it is thought the investigation may not be wrapped up before pre-season testing gets under way on February 21, and could rumble on until the opening round in Bahrain on March 2, and possibly beyond.

Horner has been Red Bull team principal since they entered F1 19 years ago and is the longest-serving boss on the grid.

During that period he has overseen seven drivers’ world championships and six constructors’ titles.

Red Bull have dominated the sport in recent seasons and last year won 21 of the 22 races, with Verstappen setting a new record for 10 consecutive victories.

For now, Horner remains in his role, and it is still anticipated that he will attend the team’s season launch in Milton Keynes next week.

A spokesperson for Red Bull GmBH said earlier this week: “After being made aware of certain recent allegations, the company launched an independent investigation.”

It added that “the company takes these matters extremely seriously.”

In response to the allegations, Horner said: “I completely deny these claims.”

Red Bull boss Christian Horner will face a hearing on Friday as he prepares to defend himself against an accusation of “inappropriate behaviour”.

The 50-year-old team principal “completely denies” the claims which the PA news agency understands were made by another member of staff at the British-based team.

Red Bull, the Austrian energy drinks company which owns the team, confirmed on Monday an independent investigation had been launched after it was made aware of the allegations.

It is not clear where the hearing will be held, but PA understands it will not take place at Red Bull’s headquarters in Milton Keynes, while a conclusion is not expected on the day.

A spokesperson for Red Bull said on Monday: “After being made aware of certain recent allegations, the company launched an independent investigation.

“This process, which is already under way, is being carried out by an external specialist barrister.

“The company takes these matters extremely seriously and the investigation will be completed as soon as practically possible. It would not be appropriate to comment further at this time.”

Horner, who is married to former Spice Girl Geri Halliwell, has been in charge at Red Bull since they entered Formula One 19 years ago.

During that time he has overseen seven drivers’ world championships and six constructors’ titles.

The team dominated last season, winning 21 of the 22 races in 2023 as Max Verstappen defended his drivers’ crown.

Regardless of the outcome of Friday’s planned investigation, it has overshadowed the start of the 2024 campaign, with Red Bull set to unveil their new car on February 15 ahead of pre-season testing and the opening race in Bahrain next month.

Christian Horner faces a hearing on Friday following an accusation of “inappropriate behaviour” at Red Bull’s Formula One team.

Red Bull – the Austrian energy drinks company which owns the team – confirmed on Monday an independent investigation had been launched after it was made aware of the allegations.

The PA news agency understands the allegation has been made by another member of staff for the British-based team which last year carried Max Verstappen to his third consecutive world championship.

Horner, 50, who has been Red Bull team principal since 2005, strongly denies the accusation.

He said: “I completely deny these claims.”

PA understands the hearing is likely to take place at Red Bull’s headquarters in Milton Keynes.

Horner has been team principal at Red Bull since their entry into F1 19 years ago, overseeing seven drivers’ world championships and six constructors’ titles.

Red Bull won 21 of the 22 rounds staged last year, with Verstappen setting a record of 10 consecutive victories as he cruised to his third title in as many years.

Horner, who is married to former Spice Girls singer Geri Halliwell, was awarded a CBE for his services to motorsport in the New Year Honours List.

Red Bull are due to launch their latest car on February 15 ahead of the new season which starts in Bahrain on March 2.

A spokesperson for Red Bull said on Monday: “After being made aware of certain recent allegations, the company launched an independent investigation.

“This process, which is already under way, is being carried out by an external specialist barrister.

“The company takes these matters extremely seriously and the investigation will be completed as soon as practically possible. It would not be appropriate to comment further at this time.”

Alex Albon’s Williams boss James Vowles has issued a hands-off warning to both Mercedes and Red Bull after revealing his star driver is under contract for next season.

Lewis Hamilton’s shock move from Mercedes to Ferrari for 2025 has set Formula One’s transfer market into overdrive, with the London-born Albon mooted as a possible replacement for the seven-time world champion.

Albon, 27, has also been linked with a return to Red Bull, with Sergio Perez’s contract due to expire at the end of the year.

But speaking at Williams’ season launch, team principal Vowles said: “Alex is signed with Williams until the end of 2025.

“It is not something I have been very public about because I have not felt the need to.

“It is our job at Williams to create an environment that deserves someone of the calibre of Alex. He is an incredible driver that deserves his place towards the front of the grid.

“Some of his drives last year were no different to other champions I have worked with in the past.

“He and I have good chats about how we want to move forward, and how we want to move forward is by having our journey together in this team for a long time.

“But would I stand in Alex’s way? I have the responsibility of Williams on my shoulders and that is the most important thing to me, not the responsibility towards one individual, in this case Alex, but to the team.”

Albon finished last year with an impressive 27 points to help Williams land seventh in the constructors’ championship, the team’s best result for six seasons.

He was dropped by Red Bull at the end of 2020 but the world champions still hold him in high regard.

Asked if Vowles’ revelation means he will remain with Williams for at least the next two seasons, Albon said: “Let’s see. Time will tell.

“The real focus is on 2024 and making progress for 2025. That is where I am at.

“If the team is where I want them to be, it will be a long-term contract and we are going to go all the way or nothing.”

Meanwhile, F1 bosses have confirmed a rejigged running order for the six sprint weekends this season.

Qualifying for the sprint will now take place on Friday, with the grid for Sunday’s grand prix decided on Saturday following the shortened race.

The new season starts in Bahrain on March 2.

Christian Horner is under investigation by Red Bull following an accusation of “inappropriate behaviour”.

It is understood the allegation has been made by another member of staff for the British-based Formula One team which last year carried Max Verstappen to his third consecutive world championship.

Horner, 50, who has been Red Bull team principal since 2005, strongly refutes the accusation.

Horner said: “I completely deny these claims.”

A spokesperson for Red Bull – the Austrian energy drinks company which owns the F1 team – told the PA news agency: “After being made aware of certain recent allegations, the company launched an independent investigation.

“This process, which is already underway, is being carried out by an external specialist barrister.

“The company takes these matters extremely seriously and the investigation will be completed as soon as practically possible. It would not be appropriate to comment further at this time.”

Horner has been team principal at Red Bull since their entry into F1 19 years ago, overseeing seven drivers’ world championships and six constructors’ titles.

Red Bull won 21 of the 22 rounds staged last year, with Verstappen setting a record of 10 consecutive victories as he cruised to his third title in as many years.

Horner, who is married to former Spice Girls singer Geri Halliwell, was awarded a CBE for his services to motorsport in the New Year Honours List.

Red Bull are due to launch their latest car on February 15 ahead of the new season which starts in Bahrain on March 2.

Lewis Hamilton says he will fulfil a “childhood dream” by racing for Ferrari in 2025 but is determined to finish his time Mercedes on a high.

The seven-time Formula One world champion sent shock waves through the sport on Thursday when it was announced that he would join Ferrari next year.

Hamilton had signed a new two-year deal with Mercedes worth £100million in August but the 39-year-old has activated a break clause in that deal after conceding the prospect of “driving in Ferrari red” was too hard to turn down.

“It’s been a crazy few days which have been filled with a whole range of emotions,” Hamilton said in a statement posted on his social media channels.

“But as you all now know, after an incredible 11 years at Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team, the time has come for me to start a new chapter in my life and I will be joining Scuderia Ferrari in 2025.

“I feel incredibly fortunate, after achieving things with Mercedes that I could only have dreamed of as a kid, that I now have the chance to fulfil another childhood dream. Driving in Ferrari red.

“Mercedes has been a huge part of my life since I was 13 years old, so this decision has been the hardest I’ve ever had to make.”

Hamilton won six of his world titles during a seven-year period between 2014 and 2020, but has struggled to match Red Bull rival Max Verstappen since he missed out on what would have been a record world championship in 2021 in controversial fashion.

The British driver is determined to sign off in style at Mercedes and their team principal Toto Wolff stated on Friday he had no concerns over Hamilton’s integrity.

Hamilton continued: “I’m incredibly proud of all that we’ve achieved together and I’m very grateful for the hard work and dedication of everyone I have worked with over the years and of course Toto, for his friendship, guidance and leadership.

“Together we have won titles, broken records and become the most successful Driver-Team partnership in F1 history.

“And of course I cannot forget Niki (Lauda) who was a huge supporter and who I still miss everyday.

“I must also share my huge appreciation to the whole of the Mercedes-Benz board and everyone at the company in Germany and around the world for supporting me over these 26 years.

“But the time is right to make a change and take on a new challenge. I still remember the feeling of taking a leap of faith into the unknown when I first joined Mercedes in 2013.

“I know some people didn’t understand it at the time but I was right to make the move then and it’s the feeling I have again now. I’m excited to see what I can bring to this new opportunity and what we can do together.

“However, right now, I’m not thinking about 2025. My focus is on the upcoming season and getting back out on track with Mercedes.

“I am more driven than ever, I am fitter and more focussed than than ever and I want to help Mercedes win once again. I am 100 per cent committed to the job I need to do and determined to end my partnership with the team on a high.”

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has no concerns over Lewis Hamilton’s integrity ahead of the seven-time world champion’s drawn out move to Ferrari.

Hamilton is entering the first year of a new two-year deal with Mercedes worth £100million, but shocked the world of Formula One by activating a release clause in the agreement to join Ferrari from 2025.

Wolff insisted he would not hold a grudge against Hamilton after the 39-year-old broke the news over breakfast at Wolff’s home in Oxford on Wednesday, and also has no concerns about the Briton sharing sensitive information with his future team.

“I’ve always tried to be transparent and fair and nothing’s going to change in that respect in 2024,” Wolff said. “We owe it to our principals and our racing intent and I will ensure that the drivers respect that.

“In terms of development going forward, it’s something we need to look at. When it comes to 2025 we will evaluate later in the season what it means in terms of technical information.

“But it’s not something that bothers me at all. We have engineers that go to other teams and the notice periods are sometimes as short as six months.

“I don’t have any doubt in Lewis’ integrity in terms of sharing information. We want to make sure that this is a successful season for both drivers and for Mercedes and all of us will give our utmost to achieve that.”

Wolff revealed he had heard rumours of Hamilton’s move earlier this week, but made no attempt to change his mind.

“When we signed the contract with Lewis we opted for a shorter term so the events are not a surprise, maybe the timing,” Wolff said.

“We were very aligned when went into the Christmas period. You need to ask Lewis why he changed his mind. How he framed it to me is perfectly understandable.

“He needed a new challenge, he was looking for a different environment and that it was maybe the last possibility to do something else.

“We are big boys, we knew that signing a short-term contract it could be of benefit for both sides. We couldn’t commit for a longer period and he has taken the option to exit.

“We totally respect that you can change your mind and switching to Ferrari, maybe rolling the dice a bit, I can follow that decision. Every driver dreams of being in the red car.

“My first thought was practical. The team’s mind kicked in. Now, having slept a few nights on it, it means our professional journey comes to an end, but it doesn’t mean that our personal relationship ends.

“I’ve found a friend, we’ve built a relationship over the last 10 years and he faced a very, very difficult situation, taking a decision of where to drive, maybe for the first time in 10 years without being able to brainstorm with me and therefore I will always respect the difficulty of the situation that he faced.

“In the future we will discuss whether this could have been done in a different way but I hold no grudge.”

Wolff said he would love Hamilton to win a record eighth world title this season after controversially missing out in the final race of 2021, but conceded that would be an uphill task given Red Bull’s recent dominance.

“Is it realistic we are competing for a world championship against Max [Verstappen] in a Red Bull? If I’m a probability person the odds are against us. But nevertheless we will give it our best shot,” Wolff said.

“There’s a friend side in me that says he should have an eighth [title] because that was taken away from him so if he wins that in 2024 that would be a great thing.

“Going forward, competing on track, I’d rather us win.”

Wolff refused to be drawn on who would replace Hamilton in 2025 as he noted that the likes of Charles Leclerc and Lando Norris had recently signed new deals with Ferrari and McLaren respectively, but praised George Russell as a lead driver in waiting.

“We have such a solid foundation, such a quick and talented and intelligent guy in the car,” Wolff said. “We just need to take the right choice for the second seat and it’s not something I want to be rushed in.

“I guess that a few contracts have been signed a few weeks ago that we would have looked at that could have been interesting, but in a way I always like change because change provides you with opportunity.

“Maybe it’s a chance to do something bold.”

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff insists he will not “hold a grudge” against Lewis Hamilton after the seven-time world champion announced he will be joining rivals Ferrari.

Hamilton is entering the first year of a new two-year deal with Mercedes worth £100million but the 39-year-old has activated a release clause in the agreement and signed a multi-year contract with Ferrari which starts in 2025.

Wolff was told of Hamilton’s decision at a breakfast meeting on Wednesday and said he made no attempt to change his star driver’s mind.

“When we signed the contract with Lewis we opted for a shorter term so the events are not a surprise, maybe the timing,” Wolff said.

“My first thought was practical. The team’s mind kicked in. When are we communicating this? What are the pressure points? How are we managing the season going forward and what are we going to do in terms of driver line-up?

“Now, having slept a few nights on it, it means our professional journey comes to an end, but it doesn’t mean that our personal relationship ends.

“I’ve found a friend, we’ve built a relationship over the last 10 years and he faced a very, very difficult situation, taking a decision of where to drive, maybe for the first time in 10 years without being able to brainstorm with me and therefore I will always respect the difficulty of the situation that he faced.

“In the future we will discuss whether this could have been done in a different way but I hold no grudge.”

Wolff said he would love Hamilton to win a record eighth world title this season after controversially missing out in the final race of 2021, but conceded that would be an uphill task given Red Bull’s recent dominance.

“We have 2024 together, we want to make it the most successful we can,” Wolff said.

“Is it realistic we are competing for a world championship against Max [Verstappen] in a Red Bull? If I’m a probability person the odds are against us. But nevertheless we will give it our best shot.

“There’s a friend side in me that says he should have an eighth [title] because that was taken away from him so if he wins that in 2024 that would be a great thing.

“Going forward, competing on track, I’d rather us win.”

Wolff refused to be drawn on who would replace Hamilton in 2025 but praised current team-mate George Russell as a lead driver in waiting.

“George has the potential to be the next lead driver in the team and I couldn’t wish for a [better] new team leader when Lewis leaves,” Wolff said.

“We have such a solid foundation, such a quick and talented and intelligent guy in the car. We just need to take the right choice for the second seat and it’s not something I want to be rushed in.

“I guess that a few contracts have been signed a few weeks ago that we would have looked at that could have been interesting, but in a way I always like change because change provides you opportunity.

“Maybe it’s a chance to do something bold.”

Russell tweeted his message to Hamilton on Friday morning, writing: “It’s been special racing alongside you, @lewishamilton. Let’s make this season one to remember.”

Lewis Hamilton has announced he will leave Mercedes at the end of the 2024 season ahead of a blockbuster move to Ferrari.

The 39-year-old is entering the first year of a new two-year deal with Mercedes worth £100million.

But the seven-time Formula One world champion has activated a release clause in the deal, and Ferrari subsequently announced he will join the Italian team on a multi-year contract that starts in 2025.

Mercedes issued a statement confirming Hamilton’s early exit on Thursday evening, signalling the end of an extraordinarily successful partnership during which Hamilton won six of his world titles in the space of seven years from 2014-20.

Although they enjoyed incredible success, the team have since fallen off the pace and Hamilton has not won a race since controversially missing out on a record eighth world championship in 2021.

Hamilton said: “I have had an amazing 11 years with this team and I’m so proud of what we have achieved together. 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 (Wolff, Mercedes team principal) for his friendship and leadership and I want to finish on a high together.

“I am 100 per cent committed to delivering the best performance I can this season and making my last year with the Silver Arrows one to remember.”

Wolff said Mercedes accepted Hamilton’s decision to leave.

“In terms of a team-driver pairing, our relationship with Lewis has become the most successful the sport has seen, and that’s something we can look back on with pride; Lewis will always be an important part of Mercedes motorsport history,” he said.

“However, we knew our partnership would come to a natural end at some point, and that day has now come.

“We accept Lewis’s decision to seek a fresh challenge, and our opportunities for the future are exciting to contemplate. But for now, we still have one season to go, and we are focused on going racing to deliver a strong 2024.”

Following the Mercedes statement, Ferrari issued a one-line statement announcing Hamilton’s move.

“Scuderia Ferrari is pleased to announce that Lewis Hamilton will be joining the team in 2025, on a multi-year contract,” the statement said.

Charles Leclerc recently agreed a new long-term deal with Ferrari, so it will be Carlos Sainz that makes way for Hamilton, with the Spaniard’s contract expiring at the end of the 2024 season.

Sainz issued his own statement, which said: “Following today’s news, Scuderia Ferrari and myself will part ways at the end of 2024. We still have a long season ahead of us and, like always, I will give my absolute best for the team and for the Tifosi all around the world.

“News about my future will be announced in due course.”

Hamilton began his Formula One career with McLaren and won his first world title with them in 2008 before switching to Mercedes in 2013.

In terms of race wins, he is the most successful driver in the sport’s history with 103, 12 ahead of Michael Schumacher, with whom he shares the record for the most world titles.

Lewis Hamilton looks set to make a shock move to Ferrari from the 2025 season onwards.

The seven-time Formula One world champion has enjoyed unrivalled success at Mercedes but is now on course to become the 12th British racer to don the famous red overalls of Ferrari.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at five of the most notable former Britons to race for the Maranello marque.

John Surtees

Starts: 37
Wins: 5

Surtees is the subject of a pub quiz question to this day as he remains the only man to win world championships on both two and four wheels.

His F1 title came during a four-year stint at Ferrari, where he won the championship in 1964.

More success probably would have followed had he not quit the team after just two races of the 1966 season following a public spat resulting from his omission from Ferrari’s team for the Le Mans 24-hour race.

Eddie Irvine

Starts: 65
Wins: 4

Ferrari’s hopes of a first drivers’ championship in two decades had seemingly been resting solely on the shoulders of Michael Schumacher.

That all changed when he broke his leg in a crash at Silverstone in 1999, jettisoning Northern Ireland’s Irvine into a title showdown with the McLaren of Mika Hakkinen.

Having joined Ferrari in 1996, Irvine was very much the number two in the team, although victories in Australia, Austria, Germany and Malaysia saw the championship race go down to the wire but – even with Schumacher back from injury and playing a supporting role, he fell short by two points and quit for Jaguar in 2000.

Nigel Mansell

Starts: 32
Wins: 3

Already a world champion, Mansell would forever be bestowed with the honour of being the last driver hand-picked by Enzo Ferrari to race for his eponymous marque.

Mansell had endured a terrible season at Williams in 1988 but won in Brazil in 1989 – his first race behind the wheel of a Ferrari – and later in Hungary, too.

Reliability issues hampered the remainder of his debut year with the Prancing Horse and 1990 proved even worse in that regard as Mansell retired from seven grands prix, winning in Portugal but falling out with the team and returning to Williams the following year.

Mike Hawthorn

Starts: 24
Wins: 3

Hawthorn became the United Kingdom’s first Formula One world champion when he took the title with Ferrari in 1958.

Having driven for the team earlier in the decade, he returned to take the crown after winning in France and finishing second in Belgium, Britain, Portugal, Italy and Morocco.

He retired after winning the championship having watched team-mate Peter Collins die at the German Grand Prix months earlier – Hawthorn himself would die in a road accident in January 1959 at the age of 29.

Peter Whitehead

Starts: 8
Wins: 0

Whitehead may have raced in Formula One but it was with a Ferrari, rather than for the team itself.

The Englishman became the first private racer to convince Enzo Ferrari to sell him a car, which he duly painted in British racing green.

He was entered into one race by the works Ferrari team – but failed to qualify for the 1950 Swiss Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton is on the brink of a blockbuster move to Ferrari in 2025, the PA news agency understands.

Hamilton, 39, is entering the first of a new two-year deal with Mercedes worth £100million.

But it is understood the seven-time Formula One world champion is eligible to leave Mercedes at the end of the year.

PA has been told that confirmation of Hamilton’s transfer to Ferrari could be announced as early as February 1.

Both Mercedes and Ferrari declined to comment when contacted by PA.

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.