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Lewis Hamilton says Ferrari move 'huge challenge' from 2025 and opens up on 'childhood dream'

The seven-time champion speaks at length for the first time about his shock signing for Ferrari from Mercedes for 2025; Hamilton on feeling it was time to change, being "really excited" about joining, whether he will learn Italian, and the importance of continuing his work on diversity

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Lewis Hamilton discusses his reasoning for moving to Ferrari from 2025, his childhood dream, and his relationship with team principal Frederic Vasseur

Lewis Hamilton has described signing for Ferrari for 2025 as a "huge challenge" and that he felt it was time to "start a new chapter" in his record-breaking F1 career.

Hamilton spoke publicly at length on the move that stunned F1 at the start of this month in his first F1 press conference appearance of the year on the final day of testing in Bahrain.

Asked what had changed between signing a new Mercedes contract last August, which was announced as a two-year deal to the end of 2025 but was since confirmed to contain a break clause at the end of 2024 which Hamilton activated, and signing for their Italian rivals, Hamilton said: "Obviously in summer we signed and at that time I saw my future with Mercedes.

"But an opportunity came up in the New Year and I decided to take it.

"It was obviously the hardest decision I think I've ever had to make. I've been with Mercedes for I think it's like 26 years they've supported me and we've had an absolutely incredible journey together. We've have created history within the sport and it's something I take a lot of pride in and am very proud of what we've achieved.

"But I think ultimately I'm writing my story and I felt like it was time to start a new chapter."

Lewis Hamilton

In a social media post after the seismic announcement, Hamilton said that signing for F1's most long-standing and famous team represented the realisation of "childhood dream" for him.

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He elaborated on that description and his long fondness for Ferrari in the press conference, referencing both the team's era of record-setting success with Michael Schumacher - the Scuderia's most-successful ever driver who won five titles in a row for them in 2000-2004 and set a host of milestones that Hamilton has since broken or equalled - and the fact that their last world title was achieved 17 years ago.

"I think for every driver growing up watching history, watching Michael Schumacher in his prime, I think probably all of us sit in our garage and see the screen pop up and you see the driver in the red cockpit and you wonder what it would like to be surrounded by the red," he said.

"You go to the Italian Grand Prix and you see the sea of red of the Ferrari fans and you can only stand in awe of that. It's a team that's not had like huge success mostly obviously from Michael's days but since 2007 [when Kimi Raikkonen won their last title] and I saw it as a huge challenge.

"Without a doubt, even as a kid I used to play on GP2 [the computer game] as Michael in that car so it definitely is a dream and I'm really, really excited about it."

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Sky F1's Anthony Davidson analyses Lewis Hamilton's fastest lap in the Mercedes during the second day of testing

While most of the questions he faced from the assembled media were related to 2025, Hamilton cut away from one of his answers to underline his continued commitment to Mercedes for this final year with them and trying to ensure their record-breaking partnership ended on a successful note.

"Just go back, about this new chapter, this chapter [at Mercedes] is still not finished," he insisted.

"I'm still 100 per cent focused on delivering for this team this year and trying to finish on a high. That's big, big goal for me and of the team.

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During the brand new season six of Netflix's Drive to Survive, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff and Lewis Hamilton hold discussions over the Brit's future with the team

"And I have absolute faith in everything and everyone in the team, and what we've done so far, I think is great. So I really hope that we are somehow able to close the gap to the Red Bulls somehow."

Hamilton on importance of Vasseur in switch and whether he will learn Italian

Lewis Hamilton and Frederic Vasseur

The Briton also paid particular credit to Ferrari team principal Frederic Vasseur ahead of a reunion with his old title-winning team boss from the junior series, saying that the surprise move "really wouldn't have happened without him"

"I've got a great relationship with Fred," said Hamilton.

"Obviously, I raced for him in Formula 3 and we had amazing success in Formula 3 and also in GP2, and that's really where the foundation of our relationship started.

"And we just always remained in touch. I thought that he was going to be an amazing team manager at some stage and progress to Formula 1, but at the time he wasn't interested in that. And it was really cool to see him step into the Alfa (Sauber) team. And then when he got the job at Ferrari, I was just so happy for him.

"And I think just the stars aligned. I think it really wouldn't have happened without him. So I'm really grateful and really excited about the work that that he's doing there."

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Naomi Schiff breaks down whether seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton will usurp Charles Leclerc as Ferrari's number one driver when he joins the team in 2025

Asked if he would learn Italian ahead of his move to the country's effective national team, Hamilton smiled and said: "All these years I've not managed to learn any other languages, but of course I will definitely try.

"I do remember when I was karting in Italy and I was able to pick up a few lines, so hopefully that will come back to me pretty quickly."

Hamilton: Ferrari have a 'little work to do' on improving diversity

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Lewis Hamilton says he will continue his journey in making Formula 1 a more diverse place following his future move to Ferrari

An increasingly important aspect of Hamilton's recent years at Mercedes has been their combined commitment to improving diversity and inclusion at the team and within F1 as a whole, with their work including the establishment of a joint charitable partnership called Ignite.

Hamilton said he had made continuing such work to widen the opportunities for all in motorsport was a "priority" in his discussions with Ferrari chairman John Elkann, something he says which were embraced, adding that the Maranello team "had a little work to do" on that front.

"Well, firstly, I'm immensely proud of the work that we've done within Mercedes since 2020," said Hamilton.

"We've made some real great strides in improving the diversity within the team, and for example, within HR we've got a diverse HR group and that will continue beyond me, which is something that I'm really proud of.

"And as I said, I'm proud of the team for pushing so hard ahead. I think we are ahead of every other team in that in that respect, and there still is a huge amount of work within the whole sport, of which I'm speaking to Stefano (Domenicali, F1's president) constantly and looking to work more with Formula 1.

"And of course, you look at Ferrari, they have a little work to do.

"So I've already made that a priority in speaking with John (Elkann) and they're super excited to get on and work on it also."

When is the first F1 race of 2024?

Just one week after testing, 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.

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