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Lewis Hamilton: Mercedes driver 'emotional' preparing for final season with team ahead of Ferrari move

Mercedes launched their 2024 challenger, the W15, on Wednesday; Lewis Hamilton is leaving to join Ferrari in 2025 after 12 years with the Silver Arrows; watch all 24 races this season live on Sky Sports F1

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Lewis Hamilton reflects on his time at Mercedes as he awaits his final season with the team before moving to Ferrari

Lewis Hamilton says it has been "emotional" preparing for the final Formula 1 season of his 12-year stint with Mercedes following his decision to join Ferrari in 2025.

The seven-time world champion attended Mercedes' 2024 car launch on Wednesday in his first official public appearance with the team since confirming the shock move at the start of February.

Both driver and team have insisted they want to end the hugely successful partnership - that brought Hamilton six of his seven titles - on a high note, but there was a subdued feel at the unveiling of the new-look W15.

Asked about how his last few weeks had been, Hamilton replied: "Well it's obviously been emotional.

"It's very surreal to be here given I came here in 2013, so 11 years with the team, starting my 12th.

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Toto Wolff shares how Hamilton first told him he would be leaving Mercedes to join Ferrari in 2025

"It is such a privilege to work with a group of people where you see the work they're doing over the winter."

Hamilton's decision to leave the team has undoubtedly been influenced by two disappointing seasons, in which Mercedes have been unable to compete with a dominant Red Bull team that aced new design regulations introduced for 2022.

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The 39-year-old has failed to add to his record haul of 103 race wins during the previous two campaigns and has decided to opt for a new challenge at Ferrari ahead of the introduction of another new set of regulations in 2026.

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Ferrari's Carlos Sainz admits he was surprised by the news Hamilton will replace him in 2025, but insists he has several attractive options for his next move

"The learnings of the past two years have helped us find our direction," Hamilton added.

"It's enabled us to find our north star. It's still going to be a work in progress, but we will face whatever challenges present themselves with our heads up, with open minds, and work through diligently."

Wolff: We needed to reinvent ourselves

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has cut a frustrated figure over the past two seasons but insists a drop-off after eight successive constructors' titles was natural and to be expected.

Wolff, who reiterated his surprise at the timing of Hamilton's exit, also accepted his team has a "mountain to climb" in their quest to deny Red Bull's Max Verstappen a fourth successive drivers' title.

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Mercedes team principal Wolff outlines the key changes implemented on his team's new car and his hopes for the 2024 Formula 1 season

"As the saying goes: when it stings, it sticks. I believe the previous two years were necessary for us to readjust, recalibrate, and reinvent ourselves in certain areas," he said.

"No sports team has won every single championship they participated in. That is just a fact. I think we pushed the needle very far, but we also knew that there would be a time when things would become more challenging. And this is what happened in 2022 and 2023.

"But it also means that you are obliged to change without throwing away all the goodness already in the team. You want to keep the good parts and work on the things that you need to develop.

"That root-and-branch approach is never easy. But we've made progress and look forward to taking the next step with the W15. It won't be a linear path, but when we stumble, we will get back up and keep on climbing."

Russell 'couldn't sleep' before first W15 experience

With Hamilton's exit looming, fellow Brit George Russell has a huge opportunity to establish himself as the team's number one driver going forward.

Russell, who turns 26 on Thursday, was full of hope as he spoke before driving the W15 for the first time at Silverstone on Wednesday.

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George Russell looks ahead to a thrilling 2024 Formula 1 season and is excited to try get Mercedes back on top again

"To be honest, I couldn't sleep last night because it's this element of anticipation," he said.

"I think when you arrive to round three, four or five, you've got an idea or an expectation of your performance. When you arrive to the first test and you arrive to the first race, you have no idea how this car is going to perform.

"You have an indication of the improvements that you've made, but you don't know what your rivals achieved. Have they made a step forward? Have they made any mistakes? Are we going to leap forward? Are there going to be cars from behind who are going to make an unexpected jump? So, this is the time of the year when everybody is sat in anticipation.

"All you can do is look at yourself in the mirror, maximise everything you can do, keep on working, don't worry about the rest and I've got faith it will come."

When is F1 pre-season testing?

Pre-season testing takes place from Wednesday February 21 to Friday February 23 at the Bahrain International Circuit with just three days for the teams to get prepared for the new season.

When is the first F1 race?

Just one week later, the opening race of the 2024 season will begin with the Bahrain Grand Prix from February 29 to March 2.

Due to the Muslim holy period of Ramadan, the Bahrain and, seven days later, the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, will be held on a Saturday.

This means practice one and two will take place on Thursdays, with final practice and qualifying on Fridays.

24 races in 2024! Watch every round of next season live on Sky Sports F1, starting with the Bahrain Grand Prix from February 29-March 2. Stream every F1 race and more with a NOW Sports Month Membership

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Watch pre-season testing from Bahrain live on Sky Sports F1 from February 21-23 and every round of the new season, starting with the Bahrain Grand Prix from February 29-March 2. Stream every F1 race and more with a NOW Sports Month Membership

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