Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff said Ferrari’s willingness to offer Lewis Hamilton a multi-year contract was one of the main factors that persuaded him to join the Italian team.
Last August, Hamilton appeared to have secured his future at Mercedes until the end of the 2025 Formula 1 season, signing a two-year contract extension alongside George Russell.
However, Hamilton’s choice to sign with Ferrari for next year revealed the existence of a release clause that allowed either party to terminate the agreement.
Wolff said Mercedes had no regrets agreeing to such an escape mechanism during negotiations last year. “When we decided on Lewis for a short-term contract, we knew why we were doing it. It was to leave options open for him, and at the same time, for us”, explained Wolff.
He added: “We felt that a long-term contract would limit our options in the future, so absolutely aware of all the pros and cons, and weighing that, that is what we decided to do.”
Even though the Hamilton-Mercedes partnership has dominated Formula 1 since the switch to V6 turbo hybrid engines in 2014, the team has struggled since returning to ground effect in 2022. Wolff believes that although Hamilton was eager for a new challenge, Ferrari’s willingness to commit to a long-term contract appealed to him.
“I believe what he said is that he felt the need to change, and I understand that,” Wolff said. “We were together, I believe it was twelve years, I don’t know if any other driver has stayed with a team for that long, we had tremendous success, and we shared the opinion that, when we decided to sign that short-term contract, there could be opportunities to him and for us. Therefore, one of the considerations was the opportunity for him to sign a long-term contract with Ferrari and provide a significant boost towards the end of his career.”
Wolff admits he was not shocked when Hamilton informed him of his decision in a face-to-face meeting this week, as he was aware that the possibility had always existed.
“In some ways, Formula 1 and my previous life have made me immune to surprises,” said Wolff. “I have been confronted so many times in my life, but as I said before, we entered this phase of our relationship with our eyes wide open. We knew it could be one year, it could be two, and we knew it would come to an end at the end of 2025 at the latest”, concluded Wolff.
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