Mercedes' Toto Wolff admittedly 'surprised' Lewis Hamilton is switching gears to Ferrari but 'holds no grudge'


Formula One star Lewis Hamilton recently made the surprising decision to bolt from Mercedes-AMG Petronas in favor of Scuderia Ferrari at the end of the 2024 season.

On Friday, Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff made it clear there were no hard feelings over Lewis’ decision. 

Wolff also acknowledged he was aware of the rumors about Lewis’ potential departure but did not know until the Formula One star revealed his intentions in a meeting over breakfast earlier this week.

Lewis will join Ferrari for the 2025 season after racing for Mercedes for more than a decade. He won six of his seven championships with the team.

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Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP Executive Director Toto Wolff on stage for the F1 Live event during previews ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Australia at Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit March 13, 2019, in Melbourne, Australia. (Clive Mason/Getty Images)

“The surprise was that I’ve heard the rumors 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 said.

“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.”

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Wolff added that he still considers Hamilton a friend. 

“In the future, we will discuss whether this could have been done in a different way or not, but I hold no grudge,” Wolff said. 

Lewis Hamilton celebrates a win

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff, right, celebrate after Hamilton won the race and his seventh world championship at the Formula One Turkish Grand Prix at the Istanbul Park circuit racetrack in Istanbul Nov. 15, 2020.  (AP Photo/Kenan Asyali, Pool, File)

Hamilton agreed to a multi-year extension with Mercedes in August, but he is activating a release clause that allows him to exit after a year.

Wolff said the fact Hamilton was seeking a new challenge wasn’t a surprise but the timing was. He suggested Hamilton might be “rolling the dice” as the 39-year-old driver seeks another shot at what would 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,” Wolff said.

Lewis Hamilton gets ready

Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes ahead of Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit Nov. 26, 2023, in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Hamilton’s has not won a race 2021, when he just missed out on the title to Max Verstappen at the season finale in Abu Dhabi.

Wolff said he has no concerns about involving Hamilton with Mercedes’ car development, even with Hamilton due to join a rival. 

“I don’t have any doubt in Lewis’ integrity in terms of sharing information,” Wolff said.

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Mercedes has been a key supporter of Hamilton’s efforts to improve diversity in Formula One. In 2021, he and the team joined together to set up the Ignite initiative to give more opportunities for people from a diverse range of backgrounds looking to enter careers in areas like motorsports, science and engineering.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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