Lewis Hamilton ahead of the Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, on Nov. 26, 2023.

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Seven-time Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton will leave Mercedes for Ferrari at the end the 2024 season in a shocking shake-up for the auto racing league, the teams announced Thursday.

Hamilton “activated a release option” in his contract, Mercedes said, following an 11-year partnership with the team.

“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,” team Principal and CEO Toto Wolff said in a statement. “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,” Wolff said.

Hamilton first signed with Mercedes in 2013 and went on to win six of his seven world titles with the team between 2014 and 2020.

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

The prospect of Hamilton joining Ferrari has been the subject of intense speculation in recent years, although Hamilton has previously said he intends to stay with Mercedes for the rest of his life. Media reports earlier Thursday indicated the switch could be imminent.

“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,” Hamilton said in a statement. “But the time is right for me to take this step and I’m excited to be taking on a new challenge.”

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

In August of last year, Hamilton signed a new two-year deal with Mercedes to keep him on board through the 2025 season, although it’s not clear whether the contract included an exit clause.

In joining Ferrari, Hamilton is likely to replace Spanish driver Carlos Sainz given that his teammate, Charles Leclerc, recently signed a fresh contract extension.

The start of the next Formula 1 season gets underway in Bahrain from Feb. 29.

— CNBC’s Sara Salinas contributed to this report.

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