Wolff Reveals 'Bruising' Element Of Hamilton's Mercedes Exit

Sunday, 30 June 2024 at 20:00
hamilton lewis mercedes imagopanoramic2
Toto Wolff discussed Lewis Hamilton's exit from Mercedes and revealed the "bruising" element of how it all went down when it was initially announced.
Seven-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton is currently serving his last season with the Mercedes F1 team. After the final race in Abu Dhabi, he will officially be free and become a driver of Scuderia Ferrari.
When this move was announced for the first time, it was one of the biggest news stories of the decade. No one knew the 39-year-old was on the market for a seat after signing a two-year deal with Mercedes for seasons 2024 and 2025.
It was later clarified that the deal initially quoted as "two-year" was only 1+1, which means that both sides of the contract can decide to terminate after one year, and that is exactly what the Briton did. Toto Wolf told Sky Sports F1:

"There is a professional and a personal relationship, and when he signed a very short-term contract [last year], it was clear that could happen."

What was strange about the contract was how early it was announced (a season before), but in fact, Ferrari and Hamilton had no other choice but to announce it officially once it was leaked.
To this day, it is not clear who leaked it. It was speculated that Wolff himself could have done it out of revenge after the seven-time World Champion told him about it, but that was never confirmed.
The early announcement also put Wolff into an awkward situation with his shareholders, so it would seemingly not make sense for the Austrian team principal to leak the news to the media.

"What was bruising is that I didn't have any time to react. It was basically the same day. And when I said, 'Okay, how are we going to announce this? The beginning of the season or mid-season?'"

"It was clear it was leaking from Ferrari. And it was happening to fall on the day of earnings."

Losing the face of the team is a huge thing that a team principal wouldn't want to have to explain on the day of earnings. He continued:

"That didn't give me enough time to do some stakeholder management, call our sponsors, the shareholders and explain what was happening. That was the only thing."

"But I somewhere read a good motto, 'Play hard, forgive quickly and apologise when you're wrong'. And the personal relationship [with Hamilton] doesn't suffer."

As the 52-year-old said multiple times before, he can understand the decision of the seven-time World Champion- who said it was his childhood dream to race for Ferrari. He added:

"If I put myself in his shoes, I can understand because the team wasn't doing very well. When you're in the last phase of your career, everyone wants to wear red overalls with a yellow prancing horse. Probably the financial terms were also very positive."

"So I kind of got my head around it and why he's doing that, and I have absolute peace with him in my relationship goes much deeper."

"For 12 years, we've been friends and allies and brothers in crime, and he's got to be competitive in the car, but we haven't divorced as friends."