Wolff puts Hamilton talks ahead of ‘flirting outside’

Jon Wilde
Lewis Hamilton Mercedes

Toto Wolff says he wants a “clear understanding” with Sir Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas about plans for 2022 before “flirting outside” of Mercedes.

Winners of the F1 Constructors’ World Championship in each of the past seven years, Mercedes have both of their current drivers contracted only for the 2021 season.

Hamilton, also a seven-time World Champion, recently extended his stay at Mercedes for a ninth year but no longer as of yet, while the policy with Bottas has been for the team to renew his deal on an annual basis.

With sweeping regulation changes being brought into F1 for 2022, and 36-year-old Hamilton hot favourite for a record-breaking eighth world title this year – which may appear an ideal achievement on which to retire – it has been suggested Mercedes are trying to keep all options open heading into the sport’s next new era.

That could mean targeting two much younger drivers in a pair of 23-year-olds, George Russell and Max Verstappen, who could potentially form an irresistible future line-up.

But Wolff, the Mercedes F1 team principal and co-owner, has stressed he has no plans to introduce new blood before it has been determined what 2022 will bring for Hamilton and Bottas.

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Regarding Hamilton, Wolff said, quoted by RaceFans: “The sheer fact we have had so much success together in the past and the relationship we have, the trustful relationship, will mean any conversations we will have on 2022 and the future, we will first deal with him.

“The symbiosis we have in the relationship is always that we have a mutual understanding of what we want to do in the future, and that will be also the case in the discussions with Lewis going forward.

“Max is certainly an outstanding young driver that will be on everybody’s radar in the future. But we are not flirting outside before we have a clear understanding with our two drivers.”

In terms of the length of Hamilton’s one-year contract, there was a variation between the two parties about why it was so short – the British driver said he felt no need to plan too far ahead, whereas Wolff insisted it was the easiest option as negotiating time was running out.

“We have agreed we want to pick up the discussions much earlier this year to avoid a situation like we had in 2020 to run out of time and be in the uncomfortable position that there is no time left before the beginning of the season,” explained Wolff.

“That’s why we only did a one-year contract, in order to allow us to discuss the future in racing and outside of racing longer and with the right amount of time.”

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