Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has revealed that Lewis Hamilton’s new contract with the team is “emotionally done” even if it still remains unsigned.
With Hamilton’s current Mercedes deal due to expire at the end of this season, speculation has persisted over the seven-time World Champion’s future with the team he first joined from McLaren back in 2013.
Despite being briefly linked with a big-money move to Ferrari in May, Hamilton has long signalled his intention to remain with Mercedes but a formal announcement has not yet been made.
Lewis Hamilton Mercedes contract extension all but done
That is despite Wolff indicating in Canada last month that a deal was potentially just days away, with the team boss claiming ahead of the recent British GP that negotiations were into the finer details with the key terms – contract length and finances – already agreed.
While appearing on Sky Sports’ television coverage of final practice for the Hungarian Grand Prix, Wolff was asked to provide an update on the negotiations and confirmed that the deal is all but done.
“The state is we haven’t signed it but emotionally we have done it,” he said.
Wolff’s statement came just after Hamilton had set the pace in FP3 at the Hungaroring with a lap 0.250s faster than Max Verstappen’s dominant Red Bull.
After Hamilton had complained that the W14 car was “at its worst” on Friday in Budapest, Wolff revealed Mercedes had made extensive changes overnight to bring their drivers into contention.
And with a revised qualifying format in place obliging cars to use hard (Q1), medium (Q2) and soft (Q3) tyres in the session, he claimed tyres could be a crucial factor this weekend, with Hamilton and team-mate George Russell enjoying the softs more than the mediums and hards.
“We’ve changed quite a bit, but you see the comparison on the medium this morning: the Red Bulls are able to pull out a first lap that’s a second quicker than us and everybody else, but then on the soft the pace isn’t there and with us it was the opposite.
“This tyre format is weird because nobody really understands where you are. We were only able to run one medium yesterday and that wasn’t good at all.
“And then we put the soft on for the first time this weekend and the grip was very good and then obviously Lewis here and Montreal, a few of the tracks he really likes, he’s just able to add another two/three tenths.
“George was saying the car was completely transformed the moment we put it on the soft with the same setup and I think the difference was more than a second. We don’t think you can run it in the race – it’s the current state of affairs – but we’ll see tomorrow. Maybe we need to do something different.
“If we’re not good on the medium, you could fall off in Q2 and not even make it into Q3, where we will be maybe magical.”
Wolff admitted he is not a fan of the new protocol, adding: “It doesn’t work because if teams just drive on one tyre in FP1 and FP2, that doesn’t make any sense. And then you see this morning you’re not really able to understand the pecking order because we’ve all done different programmes.
“The main reason [for the change] was sustainability, let’s save tyres, but that doesn’t move the needle at all. It’s not broken, let’s keep it [as normal].
“You need to be open minded to make the show better, the sustainability perspective better, but I don’t think that is something that worked.”