Wolff: Hamilton contract negotiations still 'a work in progress'

(L to R): Toto Wolff (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 Shareholder and Executive Director with Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1. 08.05.2022. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 5, Miami Grand Prix, Miami, Florida, USA, Race Day. - www.xpbimages.com, EMail: requests@xpbimages.com © Copyright: Coates / XPB Images
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Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff insists that he's completely confident that Lewis Hamilton will extend his tenure with the team, despite ongoing speculation about the state of contract negotiations.

Hamilton's existing contract finishes at the end of the current season, but he has said on multiple occasions that he expects to sign a further extension to keep him at Brackley for 2024 and beyond.

Wolff said that he had no reason to doubt that this wouldn't be the case, and that any delays to the process are purely down to the usual inevitable back-and-forth discussions in such circumstances.

“It’s been 11 years that we’ve been together,” Wolff pointed out this week. “Every single time when we talk about Lewis’ contract, it’s six months of ‘where are we and what is happening?’

“And we keep saying the same thing: that we’re just rolling on, it’s not any difficult contract negotiations, it’s just putting a different timeline and a few different numbers in there.

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W14. 07.05.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 5, Miami Grand Prix, Miami, Florida, USA, Race Day. - www.xpbimages.com, EMail: requests@xpbimages.com © Copyright: Moy / XPB Images

"That’s what we do," he said. "We’re working on this. It’s a work in progress, bouncing emails back and forth, and eventually we’re going to sign it.”

The discussions are happening in a very difference climate to the last renewal in 2021 with Hamilton having just secured his seventh title and in the running for an eighth against Max Verstappen.

Now it's Red Bull who is dominance and Verstappen the most sought-after driver on the grid, while pundits wonder whether 38-year-old Hamilton has had his day, suggesting the team might be better off passing the torch to George Russell.

Former F1 team boss turned F1 commentator Eddie Jordan is among those who feel that a change might be as good as a rest, and a good idea for Hamilton as much as the team.

"Lewis has to find something else in his mojo now and he needs to get out of there,” Jordan told the latest Formula For Success podcast.

“He needs to move on just like he did when he was with McLaren," he added. "Get out of Mercedes, Lewis! It’s time you reinvented yourself somewhere else.”

Hamilton has already taken a dramatic step like that in the past, when he sensationally quit his long-time home at McLaren at the end of 2021 to move to a relatively new Mercedes works team still struggling to find its footing.

Since then Hamilton has been able to add six further world championships to his maiden 2008 title, breaking records for most race wins, podiums and pole positions among others along the way.

The only problem with Jordan's advice today is that there is no other team capable of winning races that would be interested in signing Hamilton if he were to become a free agent.

Previously Jordan has been sceptical that Russell would be a suitable driver to step into Hamilton's shoes, but now he admits he was in error about the young Briton.

George Russell (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1. 04.05.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 5, Miami Grand Prix, Miami, Florida, USA, Preparation Day. - www.xpbimages.com, EMail: requests@xpbimages.com © Copyright: Bearne / XPB Images

“I got it wrong with George,” he said. “I saw him in the Williams and I thought, ‘Are they really going to sign him? Is that really what’s going to happen?’

“He absolutely blew me away. He did. And full marks, hands up, I got that wrong," he acknowledged. "I never thought he would do what he’s doing, and I never thought that he would be beating Lewis.”

Although Hamilton leads Russell by 16 points in the drivers standings after five races so far in 2023, it was the younger driver who came out on top in last week's Miami GP after finishing P4, two places ahead of Hamilton.

Both drivers are keenly awaiting a new package of upgrades to the problematic W14, although they are well ahead of where they were in 2022 season saw them suffer from chronic problems with 'porpoising' until the middle of the season.

However even if the new parts meet expectations, Hamilton - and Mercedes - seem a long way from winning races let along further titles against the current overwhelming force of Red Bull.

It means Hamilton's dream of an eighth crown - which would break the tie with Michael Schumacher for most F1 titles in history - remains as frustratingly out of reach as it did in the aftermath of the controversial 2021 Abu Dhabi race.

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