Mercedes workforce principal Toto Wolff has mentioned the timing of Lewis Hamilton’s resolution to go away for Ferrari “bit us a bit” – however insists there’s “no grudge” between them.
Wolff mentioned he had heard rumours that Hamilton would possibly stop the workforce however did not know for certain till the F1 nice confirmed it in a gathering over breakfast on Wednesday at Wolff’s house in Oxford.
The British driver is leaving Mercedes on the finish of the upcoming season to hitch Ferrari for 2025 in a transfer introduced on Thursday.
The Austrian informed reporters that Hamilton‘s resolution had come too late for them to have a look at some apparent contenders to switch him, with McLaren’s Lando Norris and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc signing new contracts final month.
“The timing bit us a bit,” he mentioned.
Hamilton, from Stevenage, has raced for Mercedes since 2013 and received six of his seven world titles with the workforce.
“The surprise was that I’ve heard the rumours a couple of days earlier but wanted to wait for the breakfast we had planned, and it was Wednesday morning, and this is when he broke the news,” Wolff mentioned.
“But, you know, you can be very straightforward with me because I’m very straightforward too. So once he said, ‘This is what I’m trying to do,’ that was the fact. I didn’t try to convince him otherwise.”
Wolff added that he nonetheless considers Hamilton a buddy. “In the future, we will discuss whether this could have been done in a different way or not, but I hold no grudge.”
In a glimpse into the shock inside the wider Mercedes workforce, Wolff mentioned Hamilton’s long-time race engineer Peter Bonnington – generally known as “Bono” of their conversations over the radio throughout races – replied “Is it April 1?” when informed Hamilton would go away.
Hamilton solely finalised a two-year extension with Mercedes on the finish of August however is activating a launch clause that permits him to go away after a yr.
Wolff mentioned the very fact Hamilton was searching for a brand new problem wasn’t a shock however the timing was.
He instructed Hamilton may be “rolling the dice” because the 39-year-old driver seeks one other shot at what could be his eighth F1 title.
“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 is taking the option to exit. We totally respect that you can change your mind, it’s different circumstances,” he mentioned.
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Mercedes can now take its time deciding on a brand new driver to associate George Russell for subsequent yr, Wolff added.
He likened Mercedes’ want for a brand new driver to coping with the sudden departure in 2016 of Hamilton’s then-teammate Nico Rosberg, who retired from F1 days after successful the title.
“I always like change because change provides you opportunity, and in the same way we’ve embraced the Nico situation,” he mentioned. “And that was equally like from one moment to the other, unexpected.”
Hamilton has not received a race since 2021, when he narrowly – and controversially – missed out on the title to Max Verstappen on the season finale in Abu Dhabi.
Mercedes struggled to adapt to new “ground effect” aerodynamics reintroduced for 2022 and Russell’s victory in Sao Paulo that yr is the workforce’s solely win since then.
In 2026 – which might be Hamilton’s second season of a “multi-year” take care of Ferrari – a brand new algorithm is predicted to shake up the grid.
Wolff mentioned he has no issues about involving Hamilton with Mercedes’ automotive improvement, even with Hamilton attributable to be a part of a rival. “I don’t have any doubt in Lewis’ integrity in terms of sharing information,” Wolff mentioned.