Formula1, Motorsport

Lewis Hamilton: Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff not surprised at 7-time world champion switch to Ferrari in 2025 and holds ‘no grudges’

Toto Wolff maintains that he has “no grudge” against seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton for joining a rival team, claiming that Mercedes was not surprised by Hamilton’s decision to go to Ferrari.

Despite Hamilton having signed an extension with Mercedes just five months prior, which was supposed to keep the 39-year-old with the club through the conclusion of the 2025 campaign, Ferrari shocked the sports world on Thursday by revealing that Hamilton will join for the 2025 season.

Mercedes team principal Wolff addressed the media in a virtual briefing on Friday. He stated that he was very certain that the 12-year collaboration with Hamilton was approaching its conclusion due to the terms of the agreement, which contained a break provision after the 2024 season.

Wolff stated: “We chose a shorter term when we signed the Lewis contract. The timing may be the reason why the events are not surprising.”

Wolff said, “I cannot tell you exactly,” in response to a question about what had changed since Hamilton’s final Mercedes deal was revealed on August 31. “We entered the Christmas season in great agreement, and I believe we have spoken as much to the squad and in public. Let Lewis explain his reasoning for the change of heart.”

“How he framed it to me is perfectly understandable, 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.“

Ferrari made Hamilton an offer for a “multi-year” contract that would keep him on the grid until at least 2026—a later period than his current employers were willing to commit to. Hamilton has won six of his seven drivers’ titles at Mercedes.

“We’re big boys,” Wolff said. “We knew that by signing a short-term contract it could be of benefit for both sides. We couldn’t commit for a long period and he’s taken the option to exit.

“We totally respect that you can change your mind, there’s different circumstances. And switching for Ferrari maybe for the last bit of his career, maybe rolling the dice a little bit – I can follow that decision.

“Clearly the timing was surprising to us. But I guess what he tried to do is maybe to give us a long time to decide what we want to do next year going forward.”

Wolff hinted that he was interested in McLaren’s Lando Norris and Hamilton’s prospective Ferrari teammate Charles Leclerc, both of whom signed contract extensions last week, when explaining why Mercedes had not been willing to commit to Hamilton. The team also wanted to keep its own options open in the drivers market.

“When we decided, Lewis and us, to go for a very short-term contract, we knew why we were doing it,” Wolff said. “And it was to leave him options open and at the same time, us.

“There’s an exciting situation at the end of 2024 with some drivers becoming available. Others just signed a few weeks ago – so these ones would have been opportunities. So that timing, if it would have been six weeks earlier, there would have been more opportunities, but it is what it is.”

‘I’d rather we win than Lewis gets eighth title at Ferrari’

Hamilton was cruelly denied a record eighth title at the final race of the 2021 season when a controversial ruling from race director Michael Masi gifted Mav Verstappen a maiden drivers’ crown.

The Dutchman has since dominated the sport, with Red Bull winning all but one race in a historically dominant 2023 campaign.

While Wolff admits “the odds are against” Mercedes outperforming Red Bull in 2024, he insists the team will remain motivated to avenge Hamilton’s 2021 pain during his final season with the team.

“We have a year to go, we have 2024 together,” Wolff said. “We want to make it the most successful we can.

“Is it realistic that we are competing for a world championship against Max in a Red Bull? You know I’m a probability person, and the odds are against us. But nevertheless, we will give it our best shot.”

Wolff did, however, clarify that once Hamilton has left, the Brit securing an eighth title will no longer be his priority.

“When we talked about giving it all for an eighth, that is Lewis in a Mercedes. Lewis in a different car is obviously a totally different story.

“We will be giving it everything we have to win drivers’ and constructors’ championships in the years to come in the same way as we want to win it in 2024, but maybe with another driver.

“But it doesn’t take anything away from historic legacy that will always exist. This journey together will be in the history books, as much as the next journey of a Mercedes driver will hopefully also be there.

“The friend side in me that says he should have an eighth because that was taken away from him. So if he wins that in 2024, that would be a great thing. Going forward, competing on track, I’d rather us win.”

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