White dwarf stars are the most common end point of stellar evolution. In particular, ultra-massive white dwarfs are expected to harbour oxygen-neon (ONe) cores as a result of single standard stellar evolution. However, a fraction of them could have carbon-oxygen (CO) cores and be born as a result of merger events. Recent observations provided by Gaia space mission, indicate that a fraction of the ultra-massive white dwarfs experience a strong delay in their cooling, which cannot be attributed only to the occurrence of crystallization, thus requiring an unknown energy source able to prolong their life for long periods of time. Here, we show that the energy released by 22 Ne sedimentation in ultra-massive white dwarfs with CO cores is at the root of the long cooling delay of these stars. Our results provide solid sustain to the existence of CO-core ultra-massive white dwarfs and the occurrence of stellar mergers.