Hamilton: Childhood Ferrari dream stems from Schumacher

Hamilton reflects on 'emotional' last launch with Mercedes (0:41)

Lewis Hamilton says it's been an emotional and surreal experience as he prepares for his final year with Mercedes before moving to Ferrari in 2025. (0:41)

Lewis Hamilton has said his desire to drive for Ferrari dates back to his childhood, when he used to play Formula One video games as Michael Schumacher.

Hamilton shocked the F1 world at the start of this month when it was announced that he would leave his Mercedes contract a year early to drive for Ferrari in 2025.

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Ferrari has not won a drivers' championship since Kimi Raikkonen beat Hamilton to the title in 2007, and its last period of sustained success was with Schumacher between 2000 and 2004.

In an Instagram post earlier this month, Hamilton said it was a "childhood dream" to drive for Ferrari in F1 -- a theme he elaborated on during a news conference at preseason testing on Friday.

"I think for every driver, I think growing up, watching the 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 might be like to be surrounded by the red," he said.

"You go to the Italian Grand Prix, and you see the sea of red of Ferrari fans, and you can only stand in awe of that.

"It's a team that's not had huge success really since, mostly obviously from Michael's days, but obviously since 2007, and I saw it as a huge challenge.

"Without a doubt, even as a kid, I used to play on Grand Prix 2 [a computer game] as Michael in that car.

"So it definitely is a dream, and I'm really, really excited about it."

Hamilton's Mercedes contract was announced as a two-year deal when it was signed last August, but the seven-time champion has chosen to activate an exit clause at the end of 2024.

Asked what changed in his mind over the winter, Hamilton added: "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 have ever had to make. I've been with Mercedes for, I think, like, 26 years; they have supported me, and we have had an absolutely incredible journey together.

"We have created history together in the sport, and it's something I take a lot of pride in and I'm very proud of what we have achieved. I think ultimately I'm writing my story and I felt like it was just time to start a new chapter."

Hamilton is known to have owned three Ferrari road cars since becoming a Formula One driver -- including a Ferrari 599 GTO he bought in 2010 -- but said he had never visited the team's famous factory in Maranello, Italy.

"I bought my first Ferrari in 2010, I think. That was my first present to myself, but I don't have it anymore," Hamilton said.

"But I didn't get to go during that time, being with [McLaren] Mercedes, I didn't think it was a good look to go at the time.

Hamilton also revealed that Ferrari team principal Fred Vasseur had played a central role in his decision to switch teams.

Vasseur was Hamilton's team boss at ART GP in Formula 3 in 2005 and GP2 in 2006 and was appointed as Ferrari boss from Alfa Romeo at the start of last year.

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

"We just always remained in touch, and I thought that he was going to be an amazing team manager at some stage and progress to Formula One, but at the time he wasn't interested in that.

"It was pretty cool to see him step into the Alfa Romeo team [in 2017], and then when he got the job at Ferrari, I was so happy for him.

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