Mercedes’ Toto Wolff is unperturbed by Lewis Hamilton’s signing of a contract only good or one season, insisting the two have a symbiotic relationship.
Hamilton and Mercedes have been partnered since 2013, together earning six world drivers’ championships and seven constructors’ titles. The former earned his seventh championship in 2020, and sought a contract renewal after the F1 season. The British driver agreed to a one-year deal, notably not committing to anything more.
Some took this to mean that Hamilton had intentions to leave F1 or Mercedes after 2021, but Wolff insists that his decision was one instead stemming from a desire to focus on worldly issues. The Austrian also argues that Hamilton’s superstar status means he should have freedom in deciding his future.
“He enjoys racing a lot,” Wolff began to explain to media including FormulaRapida.net. “We enjoy working with each other and we discussed that a lot but he is absolutely right, the times change, new priorities for all of us in terms of the way we live, our health – he’s very passionate about his initiatives against racism and inequality.
“And then we have this massive regulatory change in 2022 that’s going to reshape what F1 will be for the next few years; but I don’t think that this plays a role to be honest. I think it’s fair enough for a driver who has won seven championships to give himself the flexibility in his mind to decide what he wants to do in the future,” Wolff said.
Asked if he believes there is a risk associated with having both Hamilton and teammate Valtteri Bottas on short-term contracts, Wolff quipped that he is nonetheless available to drive the car, before pointing out that the team may also choose to go a different direction with their F1 driver line-up in 2022.
A frontrunner to take Bottas’ seat is Williams driver and Mercedes junior George Russell, who performed sensationally when stepping in for a COVID-infected Hamilton in last year’s Sakhir Grand Prix. Wolff does not suggest that Mercedes are interested in the 23-year-old, remaining taciturn on the matter.
“Well it’s never both because I can always jump in and drive the car, it’s just one cockpit that remains free,” said Wolff. “As a matter of fact, I think if Lewis continues to race we will want to do this together and we will discuss that shortly, and with Valtteri we know exactly what we have and we appreciate this.
“At the same time, the landscape changes with new cars, with new regulations and we have got to take the right decision for the team going forward. But that also means that we will have the discussions with our two F1 drivers first, and then we will see where that goes,” Wolff teased.
The 49-year-old remains confident in the strength of Mercedes’ relationship with Hamilton, saying they’re partnership is one reminiscent of “symbiosis”. Addressing rumors of Max Verstappen replacing the Brit, Wolff said that Mercedes have no interest in ‘flirting’.
“The symbiosis that we have in the relationship is always that we have a mutual understanding of what we want to do in the future, and that will also be the case in the discussions with Lewis going forward,” said Wolff.
“Max is certainly an outstanding young driver that will be on everybody’s radar in the future, but (as I said before) we are not flirting outside before we have a clear understanding with our 2 drivers,” Wolff said in conclusion.
Talking about the contract talks becoming a problem going forward and if the eighth title will be a point in future, Hamilton didn’t think it to be the case. “It is a real important decision in my mind is that I don’t want title to be the deciding factor.
“I got into racing because I loved racing, and I think that’s got to be at the core of what I do. If all you are going for are accolades and titles, I feel like I could potentially lose my way. Of course, it’s the ultimate dream but I don’t think it’s necessarily going to be the deciding factor on whether I stay or keep going.
“I think it’s more about when I put the helmet on and I still have that smile when I leave the garage. It’s going back to ‘Do you enjoy it?’ Last year was a real tough one for everyone, including me, but I think there were some real impactful moments. Will that be the case this year? Will I enjoy it as much, we will see? I’m excited currently, so I’m sure I will,” summed up Hamilton.
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