Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff drops Lewis Hamilton retirement hint

F1: Lewis Hamilton extends Mercedes contract

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Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has dropped the biggest hint yet that Lewis Hamilton may stay at Mercedes beyond his current contract. In July this year, Hamilton signed a new deal to extend his nine-year stay at the team until the end of the 2023 season, which will be his 17th in F1. The seven-time world champion will be 38 by the time that deal ends and it has been speculated this could be his last contract in F1. 

But Wolff, who is widely expected to bring in George Russell at the expense of Valtteri Bottas nest season, has suggested Mercedes are planning for life with Hamilton beyond 2023. 

“You can see that Fernando (Alonso) going until 40-plus, Lewis has another few more years, maybe more than a couple,” he said.

“A couple means two right? Maybe more than that. But you see there’s lots of young drivers in most of the teams now and at a certain stage you have to look at that, yeah.”

Wolff has previously stated – “I have always said that as long as Lewis still possesses the fire for racing, he can continue as long as he wants” – and his latest comments certainly appear to leave the door open for the British driver.

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But it is the saga surrounding who will partner Hamilton in 2021 which has dominated F1 in the build up to this weekend’s Dutch Grand Prix.

Wolff says the decision has already been made but will not be revealed until the driver missing out secures a team for next season – which has been widely interpreted as him waiting for Bottas to confirm his next destination.

The Finnish driver, who joined Mercedes in 2017 and has helped win four straight Constructors’ titles, has been heavily linked with a return to Williams, which would essentially mean a straight swap with Russell.

But the 32-year-old could also join Alfa Romeo as a replacement for Finnish compatriot Kimi Raikkonen, who confirmed this week he would be retiring at the end of the 2021 season.

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Russell, 23, heads into the weekend off the back of a first ever F1 podium finish, following a remarkable qualifying display at Spa last weekend.

In an uncompetitive Williams car, he went into Sunday second on the grid behind Max Verstappen, and although only two safety car led laps were possible because of torrential rain, under FIA regulations this was enough for drivers to be given final positions and half-points.

Wolff however, denied that his display would have any effect on whether he joins Mercedes next year.

“Today doesn’t make any difference,” he said afterwards.

“I think we know what we have with George, he has been outstanding in the junior categories. He’s been outstanding at Williams. And if I needed to have that ultimate proof, then something would have been wrong. But it’s not down only to the decision. It’s also considering other factors.”

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