FEBRUARY 3, 2024

Wolff took pragmatic approach when told of Hamilton’s departure

Toto Wolff had no problems admiting he was surprised by Lewis Hamilton’s decision to leave Mercedes at the end of the 2024 season, but explained that he tool a “pragmatic” approach to the issue once informed by his driver that he’d be moving to Ferrari at the start of next.

Lewis Hamilton, Abu Dhabi GP 2023
© Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd.

Barely 16 hours after the Scuderia made the announcement the seven-times World Champion will be joining them from 2025, the Austrian held a video conference for a resticted number of journalists, and even gave the full details of when and how he was informed of Hamilton’s decision.

Wolff explained that, “to give you some contexts, when we re-signed the contract with Lewis we opted for shorter term, so the events are not a complete surprise, but maybe the timing is. What happened is that, on Wednesday, we got together for coffee in my place in Oxford, as we had arranged a while ago, as that was going to the the first day he’d be back to the factory. And he said to me that he has decided to race for Ferrari in 2025. That was basically it and after that we had a good hour of conversation and this is where we are.”

Having admitted he’d heard the rumors a couple of days earlier, Wolff was almost prepared for the shocking news and that may explain why he took it so well: “You know, when he told me first, my next thought was pragmatic, what does it mean? When are we communicating this? What are the pressure points? How are we managing this season going forward, and what is it we are going to do in terms of driver line-up. That was the mind, the Mercedes, the team’s mind kicked in.”

Then, the Austrian went on to summarize what was on his mind 48 hours after learning of Hamilton’s decision: “Now, having slept a few nights on it, it means that our professional journey comes to an end, working together, but it doesn’t mean that our personal relationship ends. I’ve found a friend, we’ve built a relationship over the last 10 years, and he faced a very, very difficult situation, taking a decision of where to drive, maybe for the first time since 10 years without being able to brainstorm with me. And therefore, I will always respect the difficulty of the situation that he faced. And in the future, we will discuss whether this could have been done in a different way or not. But I hold no grudge.”

This was, again, his response, when close to the end of the conference he was asked if Hamilton’s decision had hurt him. The Austrian insisted that, “it doesn’t hurt”, explaining that, “I need to keep the calm and decide how we’re going to manage the 2024 season, best manage the 2024 season, and what the decisions need to be going forward. You know, it’s not like someone that I like a lot is disappearing. It’s changing the team, and we’ve been very conscious in signing the contract that it could happen. Maybe the timing was a surprise. But as I said before, I’ve had many black swans swimming in front of me, the unexpected, and I think in Formula 1, it’s all about agility and being able to embrace change of circumstances.”