‘We’re big boys’: Wolff bears no grudge after Hamilton’s shock switch to Ferrari

Mercedes chief only learned of decision on Wednesday‘We totally respect that you can change your mind’

The Mercedes team principal, Toto Wolff, has said there is no ill will between him and Lewis Hamilton after the British driver announced he was leaving the team to join Ferrari in 2025.

Hamilton’s unexpected decision to leave Mercedes, with whom he has driven since 2013, and join the Scuderia was announced on Thursday. Wolff said he was informed by Hamilton only on Wednesday morning and that the move came as a surprise.

Wolff joined Mercedes the same year as Hamilton and the pair have formed a very close friendship, during what has been one of the most successful runs in Formula One history. Hamilton had spoken of ending his career with Mercedes and had signed a new contract with the team in August of last year.

The 39-year-old had not discussed a move with his team principal and when he was told Wolff said that he did not attempt to talk Hamilton out of it. While the decision was clearly a disappointment for Wolff and the Mercedes team, he maintained that their personal relationship remained strong despite intimating he had misgivings about how Hamilton had handled it.

“In the future we will discuss whether this could have been done in a different way but I hold no grudge,” Wolff said. “Having slept a few nights on it, it means our professional journey comes to an end, but it doesn’t mean that our personal relationship ends.

“I’ve found a friend, we’ve built a relationship over the last 10 years and he faced a very, very difficult situation, taking a decision of where to drive, maybe for the first time in 10 years without being able to brainstorm with me, and therefore I will always respect the difficulty of the situation that he faced.”

Wolff was speaking publicly for the first time since the news was confirmed on Thursday evening. He said Hamilton had told him face to face and that it was the timing that was unexpected. The deal they had closed in August included a release clause for 2025, but Wolff had clearly not anticipated Hamilton would activate it before the 2024 season had even begun.

“We’ve been very conscious in signing the contract that it could happen. Maybe the timing was a surprise,” he said. “We’re big boys, we knew that by signing a short-term contract, it could be of benefit for both sides. We couldn’t commit for a longer period. And he’s taken the option to exit. So we totally respect that you can change your mind. There’s different circumstances.”

Hamilton has yet to put his position beyond the statement issued by Mercedes on Thursday in which he stated he wanted a new challenge, which Wolff confirmed was also what the seven-time champion had told him on Wednesday.

“How he framed it to me is perfectly understandable,” said Wolff, “That he needed a new challenge, that he was looking for a different environment, and that it was maybe the last possibility to do something else.”

 

 

Gideon Canice

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