Toto Wolff hints at Mercedes direction in replacing Lewis Hamilton

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff hinted that the team will make a “bold” move to replace Lewis Hamilton after their star driver chose to join Ferrari next year.

Seven-time F1 world champion Hamilton, who won six of his seven titles at Mercedes, will leave the Silver Arrows at the end of the year to take up a “multi-year contract” at Ferrari in 2025.

It leaves Wolff, who has worked with Hamilton for the last 11 years, needing to find a new driver to partner George Russell next year.

Drivers such as Carlos Sainz, Lando Norris, Alex Albon and Fernando Alonso have all been immediately linked and while Wolff did not give names, he gave a strong indicator on the direction Mercedes may take in their search for a replacement.

“I always like change because change equals opportunity,” he told journalists on Friday.

“In the same way we embraced the Nico [Rosberg, retiring suddenly in 2016] situation, I’m looking forward to taking on his challenge with my colleagues. Maybe it’s a chance to do something bold.

“If you’d told me two days ago that Lewis would go to Ferrari I wouldn’t have believed you.

“Things can change quickly. Contracts can change. Who knows what might happen in the driver market.”

Wolff also explained that Hamilton told him of his decision over coffee at the Mercedes chief’s home in Oxford on Wednesday.

He added that he was not surprised by Hamilton’s decision but perhaps more so by the timing, with less than a month until the new season.

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff spoke to the media on riday after Lewis Hamilton’s Ferrari decision (PA Archive)
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff spoke to the media on riday after Lewis Hamilton’s Ferrari decision (PA Archive)

“When we signed the contract with Lewis we opted for a shorter term, so the events are not a surprise, maybe the timing,” he said.

“How he framed it to me is perfectly understandable. He said he was looking for a new challenge, a new environment.

“We are big boys. We knew that by signing a short-term contract it could be beneficial for both parties. We couldn’t commit for a longer period and he has taken the option to exit.

“So in a way, we totally respect that you can change your mind. There’s different circumstances, and maybe switching to Ferrari, rolling the dice a bit, I can follow that decision.”

Wolff added that he does not yet know if Hamilton’s race engineer Peter Bonnington will follow the 39-year-old to Ferrari, but revealed the man colloquially referred to as “Bono” reacted with astonishment when he was told of Hamilton’s departure.

“I think this is a discussion which everyone needs to have in the months to come,” he said. “And as much as I’ve spoken with Bono already when I told him he said: ‘Is it April 1st?!’

“It’s something we will discuss in the future.”