Lewis Hamilton’s surprise move to Ferrari has left the F1 world spinning and plenty of questions have arisen from the remarkable situation.
The seven-time World Champion will make the switch from silver to red in 2025 in one of the most sensational moves in F1 history.
But how long will he be there for? How much will he earn? And who will Mercedes replace him with? All those questions are answered below:
When did Mercedes find out Lewis Hamilton was leaving?
Hamilton’s remarkable move went from secret to confirmed in the space of just 36 hours and was one that left Mercedes in the dark for almost as long as the outside world.
Speaking to the media, including PlanetF1.com, on Friday, Wolff outlined the timeline of events that led to Hamilton’s exit.
The Mercedes boss said Hamilton met Wolff at the latter’s Oxfordshire home on Wednesday morning to inform Wolff of his decision to leave the team in 2025. And that was that.
“When we re-signed the contract with Lewis, we opted for shorter term,” Wolff said.
“So the events are not a surprise, [but] maybe the timing. So what happened is that we got together for coffee in my place in Oxford, and him returning to the factory, and he said to me he’d decided to race for Ferrari in 2025.
“That was basically it, we had a good hour of conversation and… this is where we are.”
As to when Hamilton decided to move, that remains a secret but Wolff suggested that when they last spoke before the winter break, Hamilton appeared keen to stay.
“I cannot tell you exactly,” he said.
“I only know that we were very aligned when we went into the Christmas period [in] what we said in public and in the team.
“You need to ask Lewis why he changed his mind. How he framed it to me is perfectly understandable – he needed a new challenge, that he was looking for a different environment, and that it was maybe the last possibility to do something else.
“We’re big boys. 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’s taken the option to exit. So we totally respect that you can change your mind with different circumstances. Switching to Ferrari, maybe for the last peak in his career, [he’s] maybe rolling the dice a bit. I can follow that decision.”
Why has Lewis Hamilton decided to join Ferrari?
There are two emerging reasons as to why Hamilton decided to leave Mercedes for Ferrari and, as to which one was more important, well that will depend on who it is you are asking.
The obvious place to start is that it is Ferrari, and Hamilton has often spoken of his dream to one day race for F1’s most famous team. A fresh challenge in what will almost certainly be the last move of his career and to the one team he always wanted to drive for is obvious reasoning – but there has been a suggestion of contract issues as well.
With Hamilton at 39 years of age, Mercedes appeared unwilling to offer him the three-year deal he was after, as well as the chance to become a brand ambassador after he hangs up his helmet. The compromise was a 1+1 deal with the first year of that contract beginning in 2024.
But Ferrari were less hesitant. They offered Hamilton a multi-year deal and an eye-watering salary to go with it.
As for what Hamilton himself has said, he hinted at a desire for a new challenge.
“I have had an amazing 11 years with this team and I’m so proud of what we have achieved together,” he said.
“Mercedes has been part of my life since I was 13 years old. It’s a place where I have grown up, so making the decision to leave was one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make.
“But the time is right for me to take this step and I’m excited to be taking on a new challenge. I will be forever grateful for the incredible support of my Mercedes family, especially Toto for his friendship and leadership and I want to finish on a high together.
“I am 100% committed to delivering the best performance I can this season and making my last year with the Silver Arrows, one to remember.”
How long is Lewis Hamilton’s Ferrari contract?
Ferrari announced Hamilton had been signed to a “multi-year” deal but reports have suggested it is two years allowing the driver to find his feet in 2025 before the regulations change in 2026.
What is Lewis Hamilton’s salary at Ferrari?
Of course, Ferrari are not going to publicly announce how much Hamilton is set to earn but some well connected sources have put the figure close to $100 million.
Italian media Formu1a.uno report that between salary, sponsors, image rights, bonuses and more, the seven-time World Champion will take home that eye-watering figure, making him one of the highest paid drivers in Ferrari’s history.
As to where that puts Hamilton in terms of the best-paid drivers on the current grid, it unsurprisingly would make him top, surpassing the $70 million earned by Max Verstappen.
But Hamilton could stand to make even more money according to Sportune who say the deal could be worth a total of €400 million.
Ferrari chairman John Elkann has been the one leading the charge to sign Hamilton and appeared ready to offer him a blank cheque to make the move. A first deal was offered in early 2023 which would have been €46 million euros a year but Hamilton wanted assurances for his foundation, Mission 44.
The latest deal, which Hamilton took, is reportedly €80 million a season with €20 million of that going to the foundation.
Another part of the agreement is the promise of a joint investment fund with around €250 million via the Exor family business which would invest in Hamilton’s charitable projects.
Will Lewis Hamilton be frozen out at Mercedes?
While the news made everyone focus on 2025, there is of course a full season in between that which raises the question of how motivated Hamilton will be and how fair Mercedes will be with a driver that is leaving and a driver that is staying in George Russell.
In terms of the latter, Wolff insisted there will be no favouritism going forward.
“I think what I’ve always tried to do as a team principal, and all of us at Mercedes, is to be transparent and fair – and nothing’s going to change in that respect in 2024,” he said.
“We owe it to our principles and our racing intent, how we go about [racing], and we will respect that.
“And I will [ensure] that the drivers will respect that.
“In terms of the development going forward, I think this is something which we need to look at.
“The regulations stay pretty much the same and when it comes to 2025, we will evaluate later in the season what it means in terms of technical information.
“But that’s not something that bothers me at all. We have engineers that leave us and go to other teams, and the notice periods are sometimes as short as six months, so I don’t have any doubt about Lewis’s integrity in terms of sharing information in that respect.
“I just want to make sure – we want to make sure – that this is a successful season – a successful season for both drivers and a successful season for Mercedes all of us will give our utmost to achieve that.”
What is Mercedes’ process to replace Lewis Hamilton?
Replacing a seven-time World Champion is no easy feat and the last time Mercedes had to do that, it was Hamilton being brought in but, as of right now, there is no obvious candidate to join the Silver Arrows.
That will be figured out over the coming year but Wolff hinted it could be an “unexpected” choice.
“First of all, having George in the team is great for the team,” said Wolff.
“He’s been going toe to toe with Lewis the last two seasons, there was nothing between them. And knowing that we have a driver at that level, makes the decision for the second seat much more comfortable.
“And I haven’t really properly reflected with the team on where we want to go, from rookie to very experienced, because I don’t know yet what is the best for any potential driver that’s coming in, or for the team going forward.
“If you told me two days ago that Lewis would be going to Ferrari, I didn’t think it was possible, so situations and things can change quickly. Contracts are only as good as the driver or the teams want to race. And who knows what’s happening in the driver markets that could be unexpected and opportunities for us.”
Whichever way they go, it is a daunting prospect for Mercedes to grapple with.
Will other Mercedes members leave for Ferrari?
One of the big questions on everybody’s mind was ‘what about Bono?’
Bono, or Peter Bonnington to give him his full name, is Hamilton’s long-term race engineer and the idea of the two not being together seems unthinkable right now.
But do not rule out Bono also making the switch over to Maranello. Wolff suggested that he would sit down with the engineer to discuss future options soon.
“I think this is a discussion that everyone needs to have in the months to come,” he said.
“As much as I’ve spoken with Bono already, when I told him, he said ‘Is it April the first?’
“That’s something which we will discuss in the future in the next couple [of months].”
As for other Mercedes employees, should any of them also wish to go then they too will have to negotiate an exit strategy from Brackley.