Merc: Alonso first in line to replace Lewis

Date published: January 2 2015

Motorsport boss Toto Wolff has admitted that Fernando Alonso is Mercedes’ back-up plan for 2016 if Lewis Hamilton doesn’t renew his contract.

The 2014 World Champion’s three-year deal with Mercedes runs out at the end of the 2015 season and both parties have revealed they are eager to continue the relationship beyond this campaign.

Contract talks were put on hold mid-season last year so that Hamilton could focus on the title race with Nico Rosberg and it was initially claimed that they would re-enter discussions the week after the final race of the season.

However, the final week of November passed, as did December, with no announcement from Mercedes or Hamilton.

Speaking to Italy’s Gazzetta dello Sport, Wolff insisted: “There’s no hurry, it will be discussed during the year.”

Adding: “I am optimistic, the priority is to continue with these drivers. But if not possible, Alonso is the first alternative. Then there is [Valtteri] Bottas.”

Alonso, of course, left Ferrari for McLaren at the end of the 2014 season and Wolff admits he is “dangerous”.

“He is dangerous with any car. If you have a car that can be classified sixth, he takes it to third place.”

As for who will be Mercedes’ biggest rivals this year, Wolff feels it will be the same two teams that challenged them last season.

“I put on top of the list for Williams, but I also fear Red Bull, who have won four titles in a row and fielding every resource to return to fight for the World Championship.”