But last Thursday, the seven-time world champion stunned the world of F1 by announcing he would be moving to the Scuderia at the end of this year. The 39-year-old will join the Italian giants on a multi-year contract, in place of Carlos Sainz Jnr.
And Channel 4 reporter Lawrence Barretto has revealed that Mercedes had only guaranteed Hamilton a drive for 2024, with a view to a one-year extension. That would have given Wolff the option of releasing the British driver this December.
The contract on offer was cited as a major factor in Hamilton deciding to end his stay at Mercedes following what will be his 12th F1 campaign with the team. He seemingly wanted a three-year deal, with Wolff not prepared to go to those lengths given the icon’s age and cost implications of his contract.
Ferrari CEO John Elkann then capitalised on Wolff’s reluctance. The Austrian has since admitted that Hamilton’s decision caught him off-guard, but also insisted there was no resultant animosity between the pair.
“In the future we will discuss whether this could have been done in a different way but I hold no grudge,” Wolff said, in a video statement. “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. Therefore I will always respect the difficulty of the situation that he faced.”
Hamilton will reportedly earn more than £63million a year with Ferrari, but has insisted his focus for 2024 will remain on excelling with his current team. “I will be forever grateful for the incredible support of my Mercedes family,” he said.
“Especially Toto for his friendship and leadership and I want to finish on a high together. I am 100 per cent committed to delivering the best performance I can this season and making my last year with the Silver Arrows, one to remember.”