Wolff ‘not assuming’ Hamilton will sign for three years
Mercedes F1 boss Toto Wolff says it’s unlikely that Lewis Hamilton will sign a three-year contract with the German outfit as F1’s changing “landscape” will dictate a shorter duration.
Mercedes and Hamilton have yet to agree on a new deal, with talks still lingering although Wolff reiterated his belief that the two parties are close to putting pen to paper.
“There is no news yet, but we are not far from it,” the Austrian told German broadcaster RTL.
“We know the deadline is the day we travel to Bahrain for the winter tests, but by then we will have everything in place. I assume that something will happen soon.”
While there has been speculation over the reasons for the delay, with money perhaps at the center of the discussions, Wolff alluded to a multi-faceted backdrop against which the contract talks are taking place.
“We have a bond that goes far beyond a professional employment relationship, we are united by a friendship,” said Wolff.
“Lewis is incredibly important to our team and the Mercedes brand. But the landscape is changing right now.
“We also have a huge regulatory change next year. We have the cost cap, which of course hits us as a larger team.
“These are all factors that play a role in the discussions. And then it’s about the details. But we don’t want to be put under pressure either.
“It has to be a sensible agreement, and we are not far from it.”
As for the duration of the contract between the two partners, a three-year deal is unlikely.
“I am not assuming that Lewis will stay three years,” added Wolff.
“We see developments in the near future, not only with the cost cap, but also with this technical rule change, where you have to keep your eyes open. We are discussing what the correct duration is.”
Read also: Coulthard offers potential reasons for Hamilton contract delay
Mercedes’ options include moving protégé George Russell from Williams to the Black Arrows squad at some point and perhaps as early as next season.
Russell’s stock was obviously boosted by the young Briton’s remarkable one-off with Mercedes at Sakhir at the end of last season and which almost delivered a shock win.
But Wolff made clear that Mercedes has not used Russell’s outstanding performance to pressure Hamilton during its talks with the seven-time world champion.
“Russell will play a role in our future line-up,” said the Mercedes boss. “He just has to have a little trust and patience.
“Today we’re focused on our drivers, Valtteri [Bottas] and Lewis; what the future brings, we will see.
“But it is important to me to emphasize that we never played the Russell card with his sensational performance in Bahrain in the negotiations with Hamilton.
“We have too strong a connection for that. It’s just about making the best decision for Lewis and the team.”
Gallery: The beautiful wives and girlfriends of F1 drivers
Keep up to date with all the F1 news via Facebook and Twitter