July 23, 2024

Toto Wolff’s audacious choice may have contributed to Lewis Hamilton’s decision to join Ferrari.

When Lewis Hamilton traded the Silver Arrows for Ferrari the following season, everyone was taken aback, even Toto Wolff, the principal of the Mercedes team. However, the seven-time world champion’s departure may have been anticipated by the Austrian executive, who upset the team with a significant decision three years prior.

Mercedes announced ahead of the 2022 Formula One season that they would be substituting Williams rookie George Russell for Valtteri Bottas, who would not be returning. Wolff was defending the team’s future because he wasn’t sure if his best driver would stay in the race, but Hamilton has since made jokes about people who suggested he should retire.

With Bottas as his teammate, Hamilton won four titles in five years, but he is unlikely to win the championship in any of his three seasons with Russell—three seasons that have coincided with Red Bull’s and Max Verstappen’s dominant runs.

There have been questions about Hamilton’s satisfaction with the choice to replace Bottas, which may have contributed to the British driver’s decision to sever his relationship with the team and begin a new one with Ferrari.

It’s unlikely that Hamilton was pleased with his first season playing alongside Russell. Russell came in fourth and Hamilton sixth in the Drivers’ Championship in their first year together at Mercedes. But the previous year, the roles were reversed, with Russell finishing eighth and the more seasoned driver taking third.

The more submissive Bottas greatly complemented Hamilton’s own tyrannical nature, resulting in a solid partnership on and off the track. Additionally, in his five years with the Silver Arrows, the Finnish star has only once placed outside the top three.

A distinct hierarchy existed at Mercedes during the Hamilton-Bottas era, and it has subsequently been replicated at Red Bull with Verstappen and Sergio Perez, to the mutual benefit of both drivers.

Russell, on the other hand, has received more equal treatment because Wolff views him as the team’s future. However, Mercedes has lagged behind their competitors as a result of upending the status quo, and Hamilton may have been forced to look elsewhere.

There isn’t much proof that Hamilton has benefited from the decision to replace Bottas with Russell after more than two years, and he might now believe that he and Charles Leclerc have the only chance of winning an eighth world championship.

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