Toto Wolff disclosed that Lewis Hamilton revealed his stunning switch to Ferrari during a Wednesday coffee meeting, a revelation that came as a surprise to many.
The unexpected news broke on Thursday that Hamilton would be leaving Mercedes after the 2024 season to embark on a “multi-year contract” with Ferrari, after a successful 12-year tenure with the Brackley-based team, during which he accumulated 82 victories and six championships.
Hamilton described his move as a pursuit of new challenges, following his decision to utilize a break clause in the two-year agreement he had signed in August, a move sparked by a longstanding interest from Ferrari and its chairman, John Elkann.
Since joining Mercedes in 2013, Wolff and Hamilton have developed a deep personal bond, with the Austrian sharing details about how Hamilton communicated his decision to part ways.
“When we signed the contract with Lewis, we opted for a shorter term [deal] and so the events are not a surprise, but maybe the timing is,” said Wolff
“What happened is that we got together for a coffee in my place in Oxford and him returning to the factory and he said to me that he had decided to race for Ferrari in 2025.
“That was basically it and we had a good hour of conversation and this is where we are. I only know that we were very aligned when we went into the Christmas period, and that was what was said in public and within the team.
“You need to ask Lewis why he changed his mind, and how he framed it to me is perfectly understandable that 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 are big boys, and we knew that by signing a short-term contract, it could be of benefit from both sides. We could not commit for a long period, and he is taking the option to exit, so in a way, I totally respect that you can change your mind if there are different circumstances.
“And switching to Ferrari for the last [team] of his career, and maybe rolling the dice a little bit, I can follow that decision. I heard the rumours a couple of days earlier, but wanted to wait for the breakfast we had planned, it was Wednesday morning and this is when he broke the news.
“He could be very straightforward, because I am straightforward too, so once he said: ‘This is what I want to do,’ I didn’t try to convince him otherwise.
“It is just about looking forward, ‘what are we doing about communications, the timing and how do we protect the team best to be successful together with our two drivers without causing too much awkwardness.”