Motor racing-Wolff admits Hamilton bombshell took him by surprise


By Alan Baldwin

LONDON, Feb 2 (Reuters) - Mercedes Formula One team boss Toto Wolff admitted on Friday that Lewis Hamilton's bombshell switch to Ferrari from 2025 had come as a shock when the seven times world champion dropped the news over breakfast.

The move that rocked the sport was announced to the world by both teams on Thursday, a day after the Briton informed Wolff of his decision.

"Formula One and my previous life have made me resilient to surprises. I've been confronted so many times in my life with black swans but it was a surprise," the Austrian told reporters in a video call on Friday.

"We knew that maybe it could be a year, it could be two," he said of the contract extension with a release clause that Hamilton and Mercedes signed only last August.

"We knew that it would come to an end at the latest at the end of 2025.

"The surprise was that I've heard the rumours a couple of days earlier but wanted to wait for the breakfast we had planned and that was Wednesday morning. This was when he broke the news."

Wolff said Hamilton, 39, came to his house in Oxford and told him he needed a new challenge.

"He said to me that he has decided to race for Ferrari in 2025. And that was basically it. We had a good hour of conversation.

"How he framed it to me is perfectly understandable... that he was looking for a different environment and that it was maybe the last possibility to do something else.

"We are big boys. We knew that by signing a short-term contract it could be of benefit for both sides. We couldn't commit for a longer period and he's taken the option to exit.

"We totally respect that you can change your mind with different circumstances."

Wolff, who addressed the team on Thursday, said he had not tried to persuade Hamilton to change his mind but had turned his mind to the timings of an announcement and how to protect the coming season.

He said Hamilton's race engineer Peter 'Bono' Bonnington was also surprised.

"When I told him he said 'Is it April 1?", he revealed, adding that whether the engineer went with Hamilton to Ferrari was a matter for future discussion.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Toby Davis)

((alan.baldwin@thomsonreuters.com; +442075427933;))

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.


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