Spanish GP could have triggered big change in Lewis Hamilton and Toto Wolff meeting

Jamie Woodhouse
Mercedes team principal Lewis Hamilton speaking to Toto Wolff in the garage, hand gesture. Saudi Arabia March 2023

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton speaking to Toto Wolff in the garage at the 2023 Saudi Arabia Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton said he was sitting down with Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff on Monday for a chat, potentially involving contracts, but did Mercedes’ Spanish GP showing avoid that being a plea to stay?

Monaco was never going to be the ideal test of the new-look Mercedes W14, the team unveiling the different direction they would now follow after picking up just one win since the regulatory overhaul for the start of 2022. The axing of their ‘zero-pod’ concept was without doubt the biggest talking point of their work.

Then came the Spanish GP at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, regarded as a solid all-round test of F1 machinery, and Mercedes duly delivered their best performance of the season as Hamilton crossed the line P2, 24 seconds down on Red Bull’s dominant force Max Verstappen, with George Russell ensuring two Mercedes were on the podium.

A rejuvenated Hamilton then post-race provided an important update on his Mercedes future, revealing that he was to meet with Wolff on Monday, where finalising the contract to keep him at Mercedes beyond the end of this season would perhaps be taken care of.

But speaking on the Sky F1 podcast, reporter Natalie Pinkham asked fellow guest, 1996 World Champion Damon Hill, whether that far improved showing for Mercedes was the inspiration for Hamilton making that upcoming Wolff meeting public knowledge.

“I wonder, though, Damon, if he hadn’t finished second and on the podium and done quite so well, would he have said ‘I’m sitting down with Toto tomorrow’ just to give Toto a little reminder that they’re talking contracts do you think still?” Pinkham asked.

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And Hill, who believes the meeting would have happened anyway, did suggest that the result perhaps spared Wolff from needing to convince Hamilton to stay with Mercedes during this catch-up, the team, Hamilton and Ferrari all recently batting away rumours linking the seven-time World Champion with a move to Maranello.

“I think that he would probably have had that meeting lined up anyway,” said Hill.

“It’s more difficult to go in and start complaining about the car when you come second than it is when you’ve come 10th.

“Let’s kind of say Mercedes were way off the pace, you’d go and have a meeting with Toto and Toto is going to have to try and convince him to stay probably.

“But I think it looks more likely they’ve got a team that they want to continue with, and so Lewis will stay with Mercedes.”

And on top of Mercedes seemingly taking a big step forward on the track, Hill also believes the clarification on Russell’s future was a further piece of the puzzle that Hamilton needed to fall into place before committing. PlanetF1.com understands Russell has committed his long-term future to the team.

So, Hamilton now has all his “ducks in a row” to put his signature on that contract, Hill believes.

“Also I think George is going to stay, or he might even have already signed up,” Hill continued.

“So Lewis will know who his team-mate is going to be, all those little ducks in a row before he puts pen to paper.

“I mean, their signs are optimistic, it looks like they turned a corner, it looks like the supertanker has turned around and is now heading back in the right direction.”

Mercedes jumped ahead of Aston Martin into P2 in the Constructors’ Championship with their Spanish GP double podium, the Brackley squad now 18 points clear.