Toto Wolff has accused Zak Brown, the McLaren CEO, of “spreading sh*t” with his prediction that Max Verstappen and George Russell will drive for Mercedes in 2022.
Brown expects Sir Lewis Hamilton to win a record-breaking eighth Drivers’ World Championship this year and then walk away at the end of his current one-year contract.
The American sees no future for Valtteri Bottas with Mercedes beyond this season either and that the “obvious conclusion” is that “you will see Max and George there in 2022”.
While Mercedes are managing Russell’s career – he is in the last season of a three-year ‘loan deal’ from Williams – that scenario would mean Verstappen ending his association with Red Bull, to whom he is trying to bring a world title this term.
Speaking to OE24, an outlet in his native Austria, Mercedes team principal Wolff made it clear he was far from impressed with Brown’s opinion – and in doing so, tarred his Red Bull counterpart Christian Horner with the same unflattering brush.
“Brown is like Christian Horner,” Wolff is quoted as saying. “They just spread sh*t. I think Zak wanted to give Christian one with it. I don’t care.”
Wolff also said he was unaware of a rumour that Hamilton and Russell are no longer talking to each other.
Russell was called up to deputise for Hamilton at Mercedes in last year’s Sakhir Grand Prix when the seven-time World Champion contracted COVID-19.
The younger Briton gave his prospects of a permanent Mercedes seat in the future a big boost with a terrific performance, leading for much of the race and only denied a likely victory by a pit-stop blunder from the team and a subsequent puncture.
Previously, the relationship between Hamilton and Russell had appeared to be good.
After Russell had crashed out of the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix when in sight of his first points for Williams, Hamilton had sent him a public message of support on social media.
Regarding the rumour of a fall-out, Wolff said he knew nothing about it but could find it understandable, saying: “This is the first time I’ve heard that. The condition of my drivers is the least of my worries.
“But I can imagine that, because the competition between the two is very strong. The big ones feel when a good guy is coming. And George is the next generation.”