Toto Wolff feels the decision of Nico Rosberg to quit F1 provided Mercedes with an opportunity as he weighs in the future of Lewis Hamilton.
After winning his first F1 world championship against Mercedes teammate Hamilton, Rosberg surprised the whole motor racing fraternity by retiring. The German announced this ahead of the FIA Gala in 2016 and left a big gap for the team to fill.
It shocked Mercedes chief Wolff but as a boss, he immediately took it as an opportunity as the fight between Hamilton and Rosberg got quite ugly. He hired Valtteri Bottas, which allowed the F1 team to experiment but still remain on top, ahead of his rivals.
After four years, the situation is similar at Mercedes, albeit, it is a known thing now rather than a surprise. It not only deals with Wolff’s own future but also Hamilton, with both of their contract expiring at the end of the 2020 F1 season.
“I think that a sports team is not static,” said Wolff to media including FormulaRapida.net. “It’s a dynamic structure. That means there is always going to be some change, and change is something that can also provide opportunity.
“I know that sounds like a little bit of philosophical guru talk, but when Nico decided to quit, my initial reaction was actually the opportunity provided to us, and I think that the choice with Valtteri proved to be the right choice.
“So, I still very much hope that our [Wolff, Hamilton and Mercedes] relationship continues, but I am not totally in control of that, so, if one important member breaks out, that provides certainly, risk and opportunity at the same time.
“There is no doubt that Lewis is a very strong pillar within the team. I think that the values within the team are that morality and integrity is absolutely number one on the list. And, understanding Lewis’ position and objectives will be key for any decision that we take.
“So, we will not embark on a fishing mission with potential drivers out there before Lewis and I – Lewis and us, we will have had that conversation. We are having a consensual relationship. We’ve talked very openly about retirement, and what the brand represents.
“But I think as long as we are able to produce a quick car, and a powerful engine, we will always have opportunity to decide who drives the car. And I think there will be no doubt that Lewis is our priority. We’ve tried to make it work with the team.
“And I have tried to make it work with Lewis. But the most important is that we have a good car.” With Ferrari sealing Charles Leclerc and Red Bull Racing keeping Max Verstappen, the chances for Hamilton to stay back at Mercedes is quite high now.
Even though there are suggestions of him going to Ferrari, it looks less likely as the team has put their faith on Leclerc. Mercedes is the only team for Hamilton unless McLaren steps up big time in the coming seasons. As for the future of Wolff, it remains a key question.
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The story was co-written by Darshan Chokhani