Mercedes workforce principal Toto Wolff has stated the timing of Lewis Hamilton’s determination to go away for Ferrari “bit us a bit” – however insists there may be “no grudge” between them.
Wolff stated he had heard rumours that Hamilton may give up the workforce however did not know for positive 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 at the end of the upcoming season to affix Ferrari for 2025 in a transfer introduced on Thursday.
The Austrian informed reporters that Hamilton‘s determination had come too late for them to have a look at some apparent contenders to exchange him, with McLaren’s Lando Norris and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc signing new contracts final month.
“The timing bit us a bit,” he stated.
Hamilton, from Stevenage, has raced for Mercedes since 2013 and gained six of his seven world titles with the workforce.
“The shock was that I’ve heard the rumours a few days earlier however needed to attend for the breakfast we had deliberate, and it was Wednesday morning, and that is when he broke the information,” Wolff stated.
“However, you recognize, you could be very easy with me as a result of I am very easy too. So as soon as he stated, ‘That is what I am making an attempt to do,’ that was the very fact. I did not attempt to persuade him in any other case.”
Wolff added that he nonetheless considers Hamilton a buddy. “Sooner or later, we are going to focus on whether or not this might have been achieved otherwise or not, however I maintain no grudge.”
In a glimpse into the shock throughout the wider Mercedes workforce, Wolff stated Hamilton’s long-time race engineer Peter Bonnington – often called “Bono” of their conversations over the radio throughout races – replied “Is it April 1?” when informed Hamilton would depart.
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 stated the very fact Hamilton was searching for a brand new problem wasn’t a shock however the timing was.
He steered Hamilton is likely to be “rolling the cube” 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 might be of profit for either side. We could not commit for an extended interval and he takes the choice to exit. We completely respect that you may change your thoughts, it is completely different circumstances,” he stated.
Mercedes can now take its time deciding on a brand new driver to companion 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 at all times like change as a result of change supplies you alternative, and in the identical means we have embraced the Nico state of affairs,” he stated. “And that was equally like from one second to the opposite, sudden.”
Hamilton has not gained 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 “floor impact” 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 stated he has no issues about involving Hamilton with Mercedes’ automobile growth, even with Hamilton on account of be part of a rival. “I haven’t got any doubt in Lewis’ integrity when it comes to sharing info,” Wolff stated.