Esteban Ocon may have parted ways with Mercedes in order to join Renault but Toto Wolff says he is still a candidate for a 2022 race seat.
Mercedes was the last team to confirm its 2021 line up, seven-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton a late addition to the grid.
Although Wolff had intended speaking with his championship-winning driver early in 2020, the talks over a new deal were delayed by Covid and then the race for the World title.
The two eventually sat day the week prior to Christmas to hammer out a new contract, a one-year deal that was confirmed in February.
The short-term contract has, naturally, led to speculation that Hamilton could call it quits after 2021, the season in which is the favourite to take a record-breaking eighth World title.
Wolff, though, says people mustn’t read too much into the length of the contract.
“The reason was simply a lack of time,” the Austrian explained to Speedweek.com.
“We negotiated for the first time just before Christmas.
“A multi-year contract is more complex than one for one season. So we said we’d sign this deal for a year now and see later.”
He added: “Everything is currently open on both sides after 2021.”
Mercedes potentially have four candidates for the two seats with junior driver George Russell believed to be first in line for a promotion should the team not continue with either Hamilton or Valtteri Bottas.
Russell replaced Hamilton at the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix, qualifying a career-best P2 before scoring his first-ever championship points.
But he’s not the only driver Mercedes could consider.
Despite severing ties with Ocon, paving the way for the Frenchman to join Renault in 2020 in a two-year deal, Wolff says he too is a candidate.
“Ocon is in the second year of a two-year contract with Renault or Alpine F1 this year, Russell is with Williams this year. So there are some variations for 2022,” he said.
“But,” he added, “until then our full support goes to Valtteri and Lewis.
“We will evaluate in the middle of the year whether there will be a change in 2022. It is surely too early now to talk about scenarios for 2022.”
Ocon will continue with Renault, now Alpine, in 2021 with Russell in his final season as a Williams driver.