Formula 1: Mercedes Chief Details How Past Verstappen Situation Influenced Hamilton’s Ferrari Move

Formula 1: Mercedes Chief Details How Past Verstappen Situation Influenced Hamilton’s Ferrari Move

Ero Samson
updated at February 29, 2024 at 5:40 PM
  • Lewis Hamilton has announced he will be joining Scuderia Ferrari for the 2025 season
  • The 39-year-old recently penned a contract extension with Mercedes AMG in August 2023
  • Toto Wolff had explained how a previous Verstappen situation allowed Ferrari to sign Hamilton

The Formula 1 world was sent reeling by the news of Lewis Hamilton's departure from Mercedes to join Ferrari for the 2025 season.

The announcement, coming just three weeks before the 2024 season, marks the end of Hamilton's 11-year stint with the German team.

What's even more surprising to many F1 enthusiasts is that Hamilton had signed only a two-year extension with the Brackley-based team in August 2023.

Formula 1, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Ferrari, Max Verstappen, Bahrain GP, Toto Wolff
Lewis Hamilton looks on during previews ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain. Image: Eric Alonso.
Source: Getty Images

Many have, however, speculated that the 39-year-old being offered a two-year extension instead of the widely rumoured five-year contract may have influenced his decision to switch to the Maranello-based side.

Nonetheless, amidst the flurry of speculation surrounding Hamilton's move, Mercedes Team Principal, Toto Wolff, shed light on how a past scenario involving Max Verstappen laid the groundwork for Hamilton's transition to Ferrari.

Wolff on Hamilton joining Ferrari

The 52-year-old disclosed that Mercedes deliberately avoided committing to a longer-term F1 contract with Hamilton to avoid the risk of losing protege, Andrea Kimi Antonelli.

Wolff drew a comparison to 2014 when Mercedes was eager to sign Max Verstappen, but lacked a vacant driver's seat. In contrast, Red Bull Racing offered Verstappen a Toro Rosso seat for the following year.

As reported by Fastest Pitstop, the Mercedes AMG CEO emphasised:

"Several years ago, we faced a situation where we could have given Verstappen a chance to drive for us.
Unfortunately, at that time, we didn't have an available cockpit. Both [Nico] Rosberg and Hamilton were committed to long-term contracts with us, so Red Bull took advantage of the situation.
They signed Verstappen to Toro Rosso, with the potential to move up to Red Bull Racing the following year.
Losing out on Verstappen was a missed opportunity, considering the immense success he has achieved since then. Now, with a talented junior driver on the horizon performing exceptionally well, I want to ensure we keep our options open."

Wolff's statements suggest a potential break in trust between Hamilton and the Mercedes team.

Despite both parties openly expressing their intention to continue their successful partnership for many more years, the 52-year-old's revelation hints at Mercedes secretly weighing their options, despite acknowledging Hamilton had earned the right to a long-term stay at the Brackley team.

Red Bull chief set contract condition for Perez

Sports Brief in another report stated Red Bull Chief, Helmut Marko, has spelled out the conditions for Sergio Perez to earn a new contract.

The Mexican's current deal expires at the end of 2024, and he appears primed to be driving for a contract extension.

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Ero Samson
Samson Ero is a sports journalist with a track record of over five years in the Nigerian media industry. He graduated from Nigerian Institute of Journalism (2021-2023).