Lewis Hamilton to have say in Mercedes decision but Valtteri Bottas axe still ‘expected’

F1: Verstappen and Hamilton verbally spar

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Toto Wolff has revealed that he has included Lewis Hamilton in discussions over who will partner the Englishman at Mercedes for the 2022 F1 season. Rumours about the future of current team-mate Valtteri Bottas have been persistent all season, with George Russell the favourite to take the drive.

Wolff, the team principal of the Brackley-based outfit, was keen to emphasise that the seven-time world champion is not just a racer in his eyes but also a crucial component of the team’s make-up.

The Austrian said: “I’m discussing everything with [Hamilton].

“I’m speaking my mind with Lewis. He’s much more than a driver today, he’s part of the team. Some drivers are like contractors. 

“They come and do the best for them, which is good for you, and then they change teams, like in football.

“But with Lewis it’s different because he’s been in the Mercedes family since the beginning of his career and he joined this team when I did back at the beginning of 2013, so we’ve been doing it eight or nine years together and I value his input and thoughts.”

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Hamilton joined Mercedes for the 2013 F1 season, and has won six of the last seven Drivers’ Championships.

Bottas recently claimed that Hamilton had expressed his desire for him to stay with Mercedes in a direct conversation with the Finn.

The pair have enjoyed a very fruitful relationship since the 31-year-old joined the team in 2017, with Hamilton having won every world title and the team continuing their success in the Constructors’ Championships.

However the longer the saga drags on, the more likely it becomes that Russell will take over Bottas’ drive in 2022.

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Russell currently races for Mercedes’ sister team Williams, where his contract runs out at the end of this season.

His form going into F1’s three-week summer break was impressive, particularly as he picked up his first points of the season in the most recent race in Hungary.

The 23-year-old also raced for Mercedes throughout his junior career, and that familiarity could prove to be the deciding factor in Wolff and the team’s eventual decision.

Russell has in fact driven for Mercedes before – filling in for potential future team-mate Hamilton at the Sakhir Grand Prix in 2020 after the 36-year-old tested positive for Covid.

Mercedes are due to announce their decision either in the press conference before Friday’s first practice for the Belgian Grand Prix, or in the week after the race.

Hamilton currently leads the F1 standings by just eight points from Max Verstappen of Red Bull.

Verstappen will be hoping to overturn that deficit in Belgium this weekend and at his home Grand Prix in the Netherlands in the following race.

Red Bull are set to make their own call over who will partner the Dutchman in 2022, with reports emerging that current driver Sergio Perez is unhappy in his role as the team’s number two.

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