Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff insisted he will not “hold a grudge” against Lewis Hamilton following the seven-time world champion’s shock announcement he would joining rivals Ferrari at the end of the 2024 season.
Hamilton had signed a two-year contract with Mercedes for the 2024 and 2025 seasons, but that deal—worth a reported £100 million ($127 million, 117 million euros) — contained a clause allowing Hamilton to leave after one season.
And on Thursday, Mercedes confirmed the upcoming campaign would be Hamilton’s last for the Silver Arrows, with Italian giants Ferrari subsequently announcing the arrival of the 39-year-old Briton, who is due to partner their current No.1 driver Charles Leclerc.
“When we signed the contract with Lewis we opted for a shorter term so the events are not a surprise, maybe the timing,” explained Wolff.
“My first thought was practical. The team’s mind kicked in. When are we communicating this? What are the pressure points? How are we managing the season going forward and what are we going to do in terms of driver line-up?”
Wolff added: “Now, having slept a few nights on it, it means our professional journey comes to an end, but it doesn’t mean that our personal relationship ends.
“I’ve found a friend, 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 in 10 years without being able to brainstorm with me and therefore I will always respect the difficulty of the situation that he faced.
“In the future we will discuss whether this could have been done in a different way but I hold no grudge.”
Wolff refused to be drawn on the identity of Hamilton’s replacement but said he would have no qualms about promoting his current team-mate George Russell to the position of lead driver.
“George has the potential to be the next lead driver in the team and I couldn’t wish for a (better) new team leader when Lewis leaves,” Wolff said.
“We have such a solid foundation, such a quick and talented and intelligent guy in the car.
“We just need to take the right choice for the second seat and it’s not something I want to be rushed in.”
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