As the German manufacturer comes to terms with Hamilton’s shock decision to join Ferrari from 2025, it is well aware that the new two-year deal it agreed with the seven-time champion last year had flexibility on both sides to be terminated as early as the end of this season.
It is understood that this was a compromise arrangement to give both parties a degree of movement for 2025 in case performances were not as expected through 2024.
While this meant Mercedes had the freedom it wanted to pursue another driver if it felt like it didn’t want to continue with Hamilton, equally it knew that it could lose the seven-time champion if he elected to look elsewhere.
And that is exactly what happened after Hamilton signed for Ferrari recently and informed team boss Toto Wolff this week in a face-to-face meeting that he was making use of his current contract’s exit clause.
Speaking to selected media on Friday, Wolff said Mercedes was not blind to the door being open for Hamilton to leave – but equally admitted the team had not been interested last year in committing to him any longer.
Reflecting on the changed circumstances that prompted Hamilton’s departure, Wolff said: “We were very aligned when we went into the Christmas period. We’ve said that in public and in the team. You need to ask Lewis why he changed his mind.
“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.
Carlos Sainz, Scuderia Ferrari, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes-AMG, talk after the race
Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images
“We’re 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. There’s different circumstances. Switching to Ferrari, maybe for the last gig in his career, maybe rolling the dice a bit. I can follow that decision.”
Wolff reckoned that Ferrari’s eagerness to give Hamilton a long-term contract, something Mercedes could not, was an important element in convincing him to move teams.
“I think maybe one of the considerations was the opportunity to sign a long-term contract with Ferrari and give it a really big go at the end of his career,” added Wolff.
“We didn’t talk about whether the opportunity was…