Sports Personality of the Year: Lewis Hamilton receives award
Lewis Hamilton has yet to commit to a new contract with Mercedes for the 2021 F1 season with George Russell and Max Verstappen on alert over a seat at the team. Toto Wolff’s comments on ‘curveballs’ will have put the duo on red alert.
Hamilton became a seven-time F1 world champion last season after dominating team-mate Valtteri Bottas and the rest of the field.
The 36-year-old will look to break Michael Schumacher’s record if he does, as expected, stay at Mercedes for 2021.
Wolff has admitted he is not sure when Hamilton will retire and there could be some ‘curveballs’ that come the way of the team in the near future.
The Mercedes chief is not worried the world champion has not signed a new contract yet though.
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“It doesn’t worry me at all, because I will always respect Lewis’s decisions,” he told Autosport.com.
“Whether this is staying with us for a long time, or whether that means leaving the sport and pursuing different interests. I think we need to be ready for all kinds of curveballs being thrown at us.
“But at the same time, we talk a lot, and we are very transparent with each other. I think there is more to achieve together.”
Hamilton delaying his contract signing could be good news for Russell and Verstappen in particular.
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The Williams star stepped in for the Mercedes ace when he tested positive for coronavirus and impressed in the Sakhir Grand Prix.
He is next in line for a seat in the team but Red Bull’s Verstappen could also push for a move if it were to become available.
There is speculation over a clause which would allow the Dutchman to exit his current team due to engine supplier Honda leaving F1 at the end of 2021.
If Hamilton retires, Russell will almost certainly be given an opportunity as question marks also surround Bottas for 2022.
The 22-year-old looked on course to win the Sakhir Grand Prix on two occasions but for a pit stop calamity and puncture costing him victory.
He recovered to ninth and secured the fastest lap underlining his credentials to one day be a Mercedes driver.
While Russell will have to be patient, Wolff’s comments do hint that Hamilton may not be destined to stay in the sport for years to come.
Wolff also explained how Hamilton is at one with the car he drives and the Mercedes team.
“It’s not one dimensional,” the 48-year-old added.
“Formula 1 has always been about best man in best machine wins.
“The best man means the quickest driver, and the most intelligent driver.
“[He is] the one that understands how the dynamics in a team works, its technical ability, and on the other side seeing himself in the right context within the organisation and not like a solar system where everything revolves around the sun.”
The 2021 F1 season is now set to start in Bahrain on Sunday, March 28 after the Autsralian Grand Prix was postponed.
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