Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has strongly denied he has spoken to other drivers, including Sergio Perez, to replace Lewis Hamilton.
Following the very controversial way in which Hamilton saw an eighth World Championship title slip away from him in Abu Dhabi at the end of the 2021 season, there were strong suggestions that the Mercedes driver may not return for 2022.
Those rumours were put to bed when a defiant Hamilton was part of the Mercedes W13 launch in February. However, with Mercedes well out of the title picture in 2022 due to an uncompetitive car, the retirement talk quickly returned.
But, while shortlists were being put together by the media and fans alike as to who might replace Hamilton should he decide to leave at the end of this season or the next, Wolff said no such plans are being made by him and Mercedes.
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One of the names put through the rumour mill was Red Bull’s Sergio Perez, yet Wolff has made it clear those reports, and any other reports for that matter, are well wide of the mark.
“It’s a complete bullsh*t,” Wolff categorically stated in an interview with the Italian branch of Motorsport.com.
“I never called Sergio, he’s a good guy and I respect him, but I never talked to him and I was not in contact with any other driver.
“Lewis and I, even in the face of a not-so-encouraging scenario like the beginning of this season, we are always aligned in wanting to try to make things better and to be together next year.
“And we’ve been telling each other for a couple of months that we could go on, maybe five or 10 years, right? So none of that is true.”
It would be easy for any driver to become disheartened about such a clear drop in performance having been so used to fighting for titles year in, year out.
But, Wolff said that in Hamilton’s case, his motivation to get Mercedes back to the top of Formula 1’s summit has remained strong and he has remained an excellent role model for the rest of the team to follow.
“In the beginning, like a little bit for all of us, it was not easy to accept the reality, certainly not a pleasant experience,” Wolff added.
“But after the first few races he came back with his very special spirit, he totally focused on being able to get this car into the top positions, and even when we went through very difficult days, he was always the most positive person in the team.”