Lewis Hamilton broke the news of his shock Ferrari move to Toto Wolff over a cup of coffee on Wednesday, the Mercedes boss has revealed.
In a shock announcement on Thursday, it was announced that Hamilton would depart Mercedes at the end of the 2024 season and join Ferrari on a “multi-year contract” after 12 seasons with the Brackley squad that has yielded 82 wins and six titles.
Hamilton has framed the decision as seeking a new challenge having activated a break clause in the two-year contract he only signed in August amid a long-standing interest from Ferrari and chairman John Elkann.
Wolff and Hamilton have forged a close personal relationship since both joined Mercedes in 2013, with the Austrian describing the sequence of events of Hamilton informing him of his decision to leave.
Wolff on Hamilton departure
“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,” Wolff told media including RacingNews365.
“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.”