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Mercedes isn't "flirting" with other drivers, insists Wolff

NEWS STORY
03/03/2021

No sooner had Mercedes confirmed its 2021 line-up than the inevitable questions were being asked about 2022 and beyond.

Talk of Lewis Hamilton heading to Ferrari a distant memory, as the Briton negotiated a new deal with the German team George Russell was the name on everyone's lips, while the news of a one-year agreement, not to mention doubts over the competitiveness of the Red Bull-Honda, have brought Max Verstappen into the equation.

Speaking at the unveiling of the car with which Hamilton can effectively take control of the record books, team boss, Toto Wolff played down the speculation that followed the recent 'announce'.

"The symbiosis that we have in the relationship, it's always that we have a mutual understanding of what we want to do in the future," he said. "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," he added, "but we are not flirting outside before we have a clear understanding with our two drivers."

This year's 'announce' came early last month, but Wolff admits that leaving things so late is not a practice he wishes to repeat.

"We have agreed that we want to pick up the discussions much earlier this year, to avoid a situation like we had in 2020 where we ran out of time and were in the uncomfortable position that there is no time left before the beginning of the next season.

"That's also why we only did a one-year contract," he admitted, "in order to allow us to discuss the future in racing and outside of racing longer. And with the right amount of time. What we've decided is to discuss things much earlier this year, not at the end of the season."

The big question is, if Hamilton secures that record eighth title will he want to remain in F1, and if he does would he want a different challenge.

Wolff is convinced that should the Briton choose to continue it would be with Mercedes.

"If Lewis continues to race we will want to do this together, and we will discuss it shortly. With Valtteri, we know exactly what we have and we appreciate this.

"At the same time the landscape changes with new cars, new regulations, and we've got to take the right decision for the team going forward. But that also means that we will have the discussions with our two drivers first, and then we will see where that goes."

Wolff is convinced that Hamilton remains passionate about the sport and his role in it, despite the world champion admitting that he is not currently interested in committing to a longer deal.

"(There's) no, no doubt about his commitment," he insisted. "First of all, he enjoys racing a lot. We enjoy working with each other. And we discussed that a lot.

"But he's absolutely right," he continued. "Times change... new priorities for all of us in terms of the way we live our lives. He's very passionate about his initiatives, against racism and inequality. And then we have this massive regulatory change in 2022, that's going to reshape what Formula 1 will be for the next few years.

"I don't think that this plays a role, to be honest. I think it's fair enough for a driver that has won seven championships, to give himself the flexibility in his mind to decide what he wants to do in the future, whether this is racing or outside of the circus."

Check out our Mercedes W12 reveal gallery, here.

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1. Posted by kenji, 04/03/2021 10:29

"'That's also why we only did a one year contract' ! So what that says is that there was never any discussion about one side wanting three years and the other only wanting one year. What Wolff says in his usual convoluted fashion, is that they want to see what eventuates for the future '22' and beyond before committing to longer contracts. This is not how the playbook has been interpreted at all by some parties. Very interesting comments. "

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2. Posted by SexyLadyRacer, 03/03/2021 12:49

"Thank you Toto for your clarification and honesty which is very much appreciated!

I believe you Toto, because why look around when you already have the best driver in your team and it obviously works!
Even replacing your statistically second or third best driver in Valtteri Bottas is difficult to contemplate when this current driver line up have already yielded the end results for the last four seasons!

I believe Lewis Hamilton will stay for next season and more if he is given a really good battle this year and just manages to win the championship in the last two or three races, and I really like to see that happen!

Wouldn't that be absolutely fantastic to see? "

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3. Posted by kenji, 03/03/2021 11:10

"Does anyone really care any more?"

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