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Wolff admits Hamilton's bombshell Ferrari move took him by surprise

Updated
Lewis Hamilton (left) and Toto Wolff's (right) relationship at Mercedes will end in 2025
Lewis Hamilton (left) and Toto Wolff's (right) relationship at Mercedes will end in 2025Reuters
Mercedes Formula One team boss Toto Wolff admitted on Friday that Lewis Hamilton's (39) bombshell switch to Ferrari from 2025 had come as a shock when the seven-time world champion dropped the news over breakfast.

The move that rocked the sport was announced to the world by both teams on Thursday, a day after the Briton informed Wolff of his decision.

"Formula One and my previous life have made me resilient to surprises. I've been confronted so many times in my life with black swans but it was a surprise," the Austrian told reporters in a video call on Friday.

"We knew that maybe it could be a year, it could be two," he said of the contract extension with a release clause that Hamilton and Mercedes signed only last August.

"We knew that it would come to an end at the latest at the end of 2025.

"The surprise was that I've heard the rumours a couple of days earlier but wanted to wait for the breakfast we had planned and that was Wednesday morning. This was when he broke the news."

Wolff said Hamilton, 39, told him he needed a new challenge.

"He said to me that he has decided to race for Ferrari in 2025. And that was basically it. We had a good hour of conversation.

"How he framed it to me is perfectly understandable. That he was looking for a different environment and that it was maybe the last possibility to do something else.

"We totally respect that you can change your mind with different circumstances."

Wolff, who addressed the team via video link on Thursday, said he had not tried to persuade Hamilton to change his mind.

He said Hamilton's race engineer Peter 'Bono' Bonnington replied "Is it April 1?" when told the news. Wolff added that whether the engineer went with Hamilton to Ferrari was to be discussed.

The principal indicated Mercedes could be 'bold' in their choice of replacement and said change also brought new opportunities.

Mercedes failed to win a race last season although they finished overall runners-up to rampant Red Bull and Max Verstappen.

Wolff said he had no bad feelings towards Ferrari boss Fred Vasseur, an old friend, for luring away his driver and recognised Formula One was a cut-throat environment at all levels.

"It's a little bit like rugby. We punch each other on the nose but we are able to get off the pitch and have a respectful relationship," he added.

Wolff said his personal relationship with Hamilton would also remain intact, even if their professional journey together would end.

"I've found a friend," he said.

"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.

"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."

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