NOS Sports•today, 1:54 PM
editor Formula 1
editor Formula 1
Lewis Hamilton told Toto Wolff at his breakfast table in Oxford just two days ago. The Mercedes team boss was informed by the Formula 1 driver on Wednesday of his high-profile switch to Ferrari, with effect from the 2025 season.
“I heard the rumors a few days earlier, but I wanted to wait for the breakfast meeting that was planned. Then he told me. The fact that Lewis is going to Ferrari does not surprise me. But the moment does.”
Wolff: ‘Lewis’ choice for Ferrari is a gamble, but I can go along with it’
The 39-year-old Hamilton signed a two-year contract last summer with the option to leave after one year, at the end of 2024. The fact that the seven-time world champion would make use of that option was not yet an option for Wollf around Christmas. “He has changed his mind and we respect that.”
“Lewis said he needs a new challenge,” Wolff explains the switch from Hamilton. “He was looking for a change of scenery and said this would be his last chance for a new step.”
‘His choice for Ferrari is a gamble’
“Choosing Ferrari in the last years of his career is a gamble, but I can follow his decision. Every driver dreams of a red overall and a red car. We have often talked about how exciting it would be to do it once .”
“Over the years we always came to the conclusion that we wanted to extend our success at Mercedes. But I have never ignored the possibility of change.”
With his decision, Hamilton turned Formula 1, and Wolff’s life in particular, upside down in just a few days. The two formed an unbeatable duo for years. Hamilton won six of his seven world titles with Wolff as team boss, won 82 grand prixes with Mercedes since 2013 and stood on the podium 148 times.
He displaced Michael Schumacher, like Hamilton, seven-time world champion, from first place on the list of drivers with the most GP victories of all time: 103 to 91.
“The departure doesn’t hurt,” says Wolff. “In three days, the sport and the team have given me resilience. After a few nights of sleep, I realize: this decision means that our business relationship comes to an end, but not that a friendship ends.”
I have absolutely no doubts about Lewis’ integrity when it comes to sharing information.
At Mercedes the strange situation arises that the team works for an entire season with a driver who will leave. The question then is how much information will be shared with Hamilton. “I have absolutely no doubts about Lewis’ integrity when it comes to sharing information. I want to ensure this is a successful season for both drivers and the entire team.”
“When it comes to the development of the 2025 car, we will decide during the year how we deal with technical information. But that doesn’t concern me at all at the moment. I have always tried as a team boss to be transparent and fair nothing will change in 2024.”
‘Search for a balance between 2024 and 2025’
“This is a new situation to deal with, for Lewis and the team,” Wolff realizes. “I am always interested in challenges. It will be a matter of finding a balance between the interests of Mercedes in 2024 versus the interests of the drivers for 2025.”
“We will certainly talk about that at the start of the season. I am confident that we will achieve that.”
Wolff: ‘I have absolutely no doubts about Lewis’ integrity in terms of sharing information’
Rather than look back too much nostalgically, Wolff focuses his attention on the upcoming season, which starts on March 2 with the first race of the season in Bahrain.
“Our focus is on the 2024 season and we have two excellent drivers. Lewis is in his last year with us, George (Russell, ed.) is fully motivated to perform. We need to get a car on the track that has more speed than last year. It will be difficult to compete with Red Bull and the others.”
Wolff realizes that getting Hamilton to become world champion one more time at Mercedes will be a big challenge. “We are not the biggest contender, I have to be honest, but we will do everything we can.”
On Thursday evening, before the switch was announced by the teams, former F1 driver Jan Lammers already shed some light on Hamilton’s transfer:
Jan Lammers about Hamilton transfer to Ferrari: ‘Nice shock’
“There is something in me that says: he deserves an eighth title, because it has been taken away from him,” Wolff refers to the sensational denouement of the World Cup battle in 2021, when Hamilton won the world title from Max in the last lap of the last race. Verstappen had to leave.
“If he wins that eighth title in 2024, that will be great. After that, I hope we will become world champions.”