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Mercedes wants to take its time on driver choice

NEWS STORY
03/06/2020

While there might not have been any on-track F1 (race) activity this year, last month saw the traditional game of driver 'musical chairs' roar into life surprisingly early, when, having announced a parting of the ways with Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari signed Carlos Sainz while Daniel Ricciardo jumped ship from Renault to replace him at McLaren.

With Vettel now a free agent, and Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas both out of contract at the end of the year, it is no surprise that months after predicting the Briton's "dream move" to Maranello, the media is now eyeing a "dream line-up" at Brackley comprising the German and the Stevenage Rocket.

Speaking to the media today, Toto Wolff, while admitting that last month's driver moves took him by surprise, said he is in no rush to name his 2021 line-up.

"We were quite surprised by the early movements, as you need to start the season with a driver you know you're going to lose so it's very tricky to develop a car without having the driver be part of it," said the Austrian.

"Every single driver needs to be a team player as well," he continued, "and that becomes second priority, in my opinion, then for the relevant guy.

Asked about Vettel, and whether he was on Mercedes radar, Wolff said: "It's not lip service. We owe it to a four-time world champion not to come out and say straight away ‘no'. You need to think about it.

"On the other side, we have a fantastic line-up and I am happy with both our drivers and George, but you never know. One may decide he doesn't want to go racing anymore and suddenly you have a vacant spot. That's why I don't want to come out in June and say 'no chance, Sebastian' and that he is not racing for us.

"First of all, I wouldn't do it to him as a driver, to be blunt, and on the other side, I have seen black swans appearing when nobody expected. Remember Nico Rosberg... So in that perspective we are just keeping our options open but of course concentrating our discussions on our current drivers.

"For us, we want to take our time," he admitted. "Our priority lies on the Mercedes drivers, Valtteri and Lewis. George and the Williams situation we're looking on with interest. And beyond that, you need to not discount any driver. That's why I said I don't want to discount Sebastian as a four-time world champion because who knows what happens in the next months.

"If I would have told you in January we would not have any racing in the first half of the year, nobody would believe it. So in that respect, we're just keeping our options open."

Asked about Hamilton, he said: We didn't see each other over lockdown, we were in different parts of the world. But we were in very regular contact.

"We didn't work on any agreement, between us there is a lot of trust. We have been together for a long time and never in these years together have we had to take the contract out and actually read what was written in there as it comes so naturally.

"Once racing resumes we're going to spend some time together, dig the contract out of the cupboard, look at the timings and the numbers and the rights and hopefully have something pretty soon."

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