Mercedes to focus on current drivers before 'flirting' with Russell/Verstappen

Star InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar Inactive

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has reiterated talks with his current drivers will come before any consideration of change for 2022.

Both Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas re-signed on single-year contracts for this season, with the seven-time world champion only doing so last month after a number of Covid-related delays.

Indeed, Wolff insists the short-term deal was a result of the lack of time to put together a more detailed longer-term agreement, something that he expects will be made this year.

"We have agreed that we want to pick up the discussions much earlier this year, to avoid a situation as we had in 2020 where we run out of time and be in the uncomfortable position that there is no time left before the beginning of the season," said the Austrian at the launch of Mercedes' new W12 car on Tuesday.

"And that is also 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."

Also Read:

More in doubt though is the future of teammate Valtteri Bottas, particularly after Williams driver and Mercedes junior George Russell made a strong case for a 2022 seat with his impressive performance for Mercedes at last year's Sakhir Grand Prix.

"With Valtteri, we know exactly what we have and we appreciate this," Wolff said.

"That doesn’t mean that he hasn’t got what it takes to have a run at the world championship. I think we have seen fantastic performances over the last few years, just not the stability throughout the season.

"[Regardless,] Valtteri is always going to have unconditional support from the team in order to perform as good as he can and he knows that it is within his own hands to influence the future," he noted.

"But at the same time, next year the landscape changes with new cars, with new regulations and we have got to take the right decision for the team going forward.

"We know what we have in George and the future is bright for George in any case, but that also means that we will have the discussions with our two current drivers first, and then we will see where that goes."

Another name always linked to Mercedes is Max Verstappen, who many see as Hamilton's natural successor once he retires.

"Max is certainly an outstanding young driver that will be on everybody’s radar in the future," Wolff conceded, "but (as I said before) we are not flirting outside before we have a clear understanding with our two drivers."

For now at least, the Dutchman is also playing down any suggestion he's following the situation at Mercedes.

“At the end of the day, I don’t know what Lewis is going to do,” he said after shaking down the Red Bull RB16B at Silverstone last week.

“I’m just focused on myself and focused on this year and trying to make that a success. So early in the season with basically just a shakedown, I am not thinking about those sort of things at this stage.”