Lewis Hamilton: Toto Wolff hailed for using George Russell in contract negotiations

Sports Personality of the Year: Lewis Hamilton receives award

Lewis Hamilton has not signed his 2021 Mercedes contract and former F1 star Mark Webber believes Toto Wolff holds the stronger hand at the negotiating table because of how he used George Russell at the Sakhir Grand Prix.

Both Mercedes and Hamilton want to continue their partnership next year but they are locked in talks over the Brit’s salary.

Hamilton wants his earnings to remain as they are; £40million-a-year. However, the Silver Arrows are looking to cut costs because of the impact of the coronavirus.

Signing Hamilton will almost guarantee Mercedes another world title and it would be a historic achievement as he will go clear of Michael Schumacher’s record.

But Wolff thinks he has a stronger hand because he could always offer Russell a seat, given the 22-year-old’s impressive performance in Bahrain.

The Williams star stepped in for Hamilton, who had coronavirus, and would have won the race had it not been for some terrible luck late on.

Webber reckons Wolff allowing Russell the opportunity to impress lessens their need to give in to Hamilton’s demands.

“The timing [of the positive coronavirus test] for Lewis was just horrible,” Webber told At The Controls podcast.

“I think we all thought during the season ‘imagine if Lewis or someone in the Championship battle got Covid and missed a few races’.

“I think I drove 1,000 days in a Formula 1 car with testing, practice, Grand Prix weekends, the whole thing put together over 12 or 13 years, and I think I had three days off.

“That’s because I don’t want anyone near my car. You try to look after your own share price, you don’t want people to have exposure to your material, your people.

“It’s such a cut-throat industry, even someone like Lewis that was all downside for him.

“George drove well. It was the easiest track in the world – it wasn’t exactly Suzuka – but he still drove brilliantly in a compromised ergonomic environment in the car.

“Toto certainly likes the tightrope in terms of playing the game with lots of different things in the pit lane, and that was another one where it looks like it’s come out in his favour.”

Hamilton is keen to get his contract sorted and in the build up to Christmas he said: “We haven’t started the conversation but we plan to do that over the coming days.

“On the super, super plus side, I’m really proud and grateful to see Toto is staying. He’s such an important leading figure within this team and the success we’ve achieved wouldn’t have been possible without him.

“He’s such a great figurehead and I think the team is just better for it, to have that longevity, and it’s great to see that commitment from Mercedes.”

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