Informed by Lewis Hamilton that 2024 will be his last year with Mercedes, Toto Wolff says he “will discuss” with his driver whether this could’ve been handled differently but holds “no grudge”.
Even before the first race of the 2024 season, it has been confirmed that Hamilton will leave Mercedes at the end of this year’s championship, his 12th campaign with the Brackley squad.
It brings to an end one of Formula 1’s most successful partnerships ever as Hamilton together with Mercedes has claimed 82 Grand Prix wins and six World Drivers titles.
Toto Wolff ponders if exit ‘could have been done in a different way’
With Mercedes only putting a one-year deal on the table with an option for 2025, Wolff revealing they “couldn’t commit” to a longer period, Hamilton has opted to leave for Ferrari who agreed on a multi-year deal with the Briton.
That’s reportedly for 2025 and 2026 with an option for ’27 although that’s unconfirmed with Ferrari’s only comment being that it is a “multi-year” deal.
As rumours began to swirl late Wednesday that seismic news was on the horizon said to involve Hamilton, it took less than 24 hours for Mercedes and then Ferrari to confirm the news in their respective press releases.
“My thoughts were pragmatic. What does it mean? When are we communicating this? What are the pressure points? How are we managing the season going forward?” he told the media including PlanetF1.com.
“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.”
The early announcement means Hamilton and Mercedes will go into the first race of this season knowing it is the driver’s final year with the Silver Arrows.
Mercedes ‘couldn’t commit for a longer period’ insists Toto Wolff
It has been suggested that Ferrari’s willingness to offer Hamilton a multi-year contract whereas Mercedes only put a one-year plus an option on the table played a role in his departure.
Wolff says that was all the team could offer.
“We are big boys,” he said. “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 in a way, you know, I totally, we totally, respect that. You can change your mind with different circumstances.”
Aside from the lure of racing in red for what could be his final contract in Formula 1, Wolff reckons Ferrari’s willingness to put a long-term deal on the table may have been a factor in Hamilton’s decision to swap teams.
“I think maybe one of the considerations was the opportunity to sign a long-term contract with Ferrari and give it a really big go at the end of his career,” he said. “But we didn’t talk about whether the opportunity was better there or with us because I don’t think you can say.”
However, former F1 driver Martin Brundle has questioned if the duration of the deal was the only driving force.
“Something has dissatisfied him at Mercedes-Benz,” claimed the Sky Sports pundit. “There’s no doubt about that.
“But I think also just I imagine, Lewis, looking back at the last couple of years, hasn’t won a race, realises that his life has taken off, all sorts of other extra-curricular stuff and he wants to refocus on his racing, needs a new challenge as he turns 40.
“And he’s brought Mark Hynes back in, his long-standing sort of right-hand man at the track, a racer as it were, and I think this is Lewis going, ‘Right, I want to refocus on my racing driving and I want this challenge’.”
As for Hamilton, the Briton continued his preparations for his final season with Mercedes with a run-out in last year’s W14 as he participated in a tyre test for Pirelli on Tuesday.
He took time out of his running to thank his fans for their support, writing on X: “The past few days have been all love.
“Thank you all, the energy and support means everything. Can’t wait to start this season. 2024 is all us.”