Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Jeddah Corniche Circuit, 2023

Wolff would accept Hamilton leaving if Mercedes’ poor form lasts years

2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton would be justified in leaving Mercedes if their current poor form lasts years, says team principal Toto Wolff.

The seven-times world champion is enduring the longest victory drought of his record-breaking Formula 1 career. He failed to win a race last season and Mercedes started 2023 on the back foot for a second year in a row, finishing the first race behind rivals Red Bull, Ferrari and even Aston Martin.

With rumours already beginning to circulate that Hamilton could choose not to re-sign with the team with his contract expiring at the end of the current season, Wolff is confident that the seven-times champion will choose to remain with them alongside team mate George Russell for next year.

“I have no idea what is being said in the silly season, I just know where we are with Lewis and with George – nothing else is relevant,” said Wolff. “We are talking when we want to do it and how but we just need to change some terms – the dates, basically.”

Wolff believes that Hamilton will not choose to leave Mercedes and pursue his unprecedented eighth world championship with another team. However, he admitted he would not blame Hamilton for considering other options if Mercedes do not return to championship contention in the years ahead.

“I don’t think that Lewis will leave Mercedes,” Wolff insisted. “He’s at the stage of a career where we trust each other. We have formed a great bond among each other and we have no reason to doubt each other, even though this is a difficult spell.”

The Mercedes team principal said he is looking forward to them emerging from their current slump. “So nice it will be, when we come out of this valley of tears and come back to solid performances.

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“As a driver, nevertheless, if he wants to win another championship, he needs to make sure that he has the car. And if we cannot demonstrate that we are able to give him a car in the next couple of years, then he needs to look everywhere.

“I don’t think he’s doing it at that stage, but I will have no grudge if that happens in a year or two.”

Yesterday Hamilton said the team’s lack of success had not affected his motivation. “You just redirect your energy,” he explained. “It’s just different.

“If you’re fighting for a world championship, which is what you prepare for at the beginning of the season, you realise that’s not the case and then you redirect the energy into building and strengthening the team, supporting everyone in the best way you can. You continue to prepare the same for the races, in the sense of your fitness and the mental approach.

“We need the Red Bulls not to finish the race, the Ferraris not to finish the race, and maybe now the Astons not to finish the race, for us to be winning at the moment. But that doesn’t mean we can’t catch them up.

“None of us at this team have ever kind of shied away from a challenge. We enjoy the challenge. We would much prefer to be at the front, but it isn’t the way it is.”

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2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

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Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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14 comments on “Wolff would accept Hamilton leaving if Mercedes’ poor form lasts years”

  1. This sounds more like him suggesting Lewis “shut the f up” than “I’ll forgive Lewis if he leaves.” I could be wrong though.

  2. BTW, it’s amazing how quickly without Ross Brawn to lead the design and organization of the new rules car like he did last time, the Mercedes organization seems to be imploding internally and publicly. Obviously, the public aspect is somewhat correlated to just how much louder and more influential social media has become since then.

    1. What are you getting at Nick?

    2. Mercedes survived the major 2017 concept change quite well. A lot of the tricks that they were good at, such as outwash, have been outlawed with the current cars. F1 tried to stop Mercedes from winning by changing technical rules since the earlier years of their domination. Eventually they succeeded.

  3. It seems Mercedes is intent to make sure every knows what a bad car Mercedes has built, how unhappy Mercedes’ drivers are, how badly Mercedes communicates internally, etc.

    How real is the ‘win and lose as a team’ mindset and ‘no blame culture’ if it can’t stand one season of coming – imagine – third (!).

    1. MichaelN,
      I have been calling their hypocrite behaviour for years on this proper forum which always came at the price of their fan—boys childish tantrums thrown at me. On a more serious note, Wolff is preparing to make a move for Leclerc in 2025 and Hamilton is looking for that Ferrari seat. No thank you, I hope Elkann will not fall into that trap and extends Leclerc’s contract ASAP.

      1. Yes, please keep that rubbish team away from Hamilton LOL. Leclerc would gladly swap places with Lewis.

        1. Keep telling that to yourself. Besides, Mercedes are in deeper trouble at the moment than Ferrari :) Maybe you’re too young to understand but it’s Hamilton himself who keeps dragging the Ferrari name whenever he was in the middle of a contract negotiations and not the other way round.

      2. did you even bother to read the article you scrolled past to comment?
        Wolff states the contract is pretty much complete, just a few terms – dates to be specific
        And to address silly season rumors, he states it is noise and knows where he and lewis stand and that they trust each other going on to say if Merc cannot consistently provide him a championship winning car, he holds no grudges if lewis leaves to pursue his eighth title.

        He answered a question posed to him, that is all, stop making mountains out of molehills.
        Charles is more likely to go crawling to other teams for some semblance of stability in 2025 before being actively poached.
        The rumor mill/pundits have done the most to put Hamilton’s name in the same sentence as Ferrari than Hamilton himself has uttered.
        It’s consistently draining explaining what a no blame culture looks like to a Ferrari fan.
        Maybe have Mattia or Sanchez explain it to you, I hear they’re on gardening leave.

  4. Losing is a crying game.

  5. Is Wolff implying Sir Lewis is a slave?

    1. Honestly, what on earth are you talking about?

  6. Wolff is suggesting that mid-March is already ‘silly season’? Not even two races in?
    None of what any of them at Mercedes say publicly at this point in time means anything. The team is obviously in (relative terms) something of a crisis. The pressure escapes in different ways. Hamilton is free to walk. Mercedes are free to design a better car to stop him doing so. Or they shrug and invest in Russell longer-term. Quite why people read so much and get so worked up about this outward-directed intra-team chatter escapes me. I mean, I get why it’s provocative when they or anyone else talks about other teams. But this stuff intended for other people within the team – channeled through the media – is all always code for something else – ways of getting what they want (car redesigns, upgrades, drivers to stay, better contract terms, etc.). And we don’t really know how to decode it.

    1. at this point in time

      ? rather fairly consistent throughout the years I would say.

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