Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says contract talks with Lewis Hamilton are ongoing and it is “just a matter of time” until a new deal is agreed.
Hamilton is out of contract at the end of 2018 and is about to enter his sixth season with Mercedes, having won three drivers’ championships since joining the team in 2013. Hamilton’s fourth title came after a battle with Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari last season, following which both the driver and team opt to start negotiations after the end of the year, and Wolff says progress over the winter has been positive.
“Lewis has become such an important pillar within the team that it is a no-brainer that we continue with each other,” Wolff said. “The discussions are ongoing and we have very positive mindset. It’s just a matter of time when we seal it and put the signature to the documents.”
With Valtteri Bottas also out of contract at the end of the season after signing a one year deal in 2017, Wolff says the current Mercedes young drivers – Esteban Ocon, Pascal Wehrlein and George Russell – all need to show they are capable of making the step up if required.
“Every year we set objectives for the boys, and they have matched all of the objectives last year, and this year the bar is raising. If you want to qualify for Mercedes, you need to be quick, and you need to make no mistakes, and you need to work well within your team, be respected by your team and energize your team. All these are factors that we try to capture and measure, and we’ll see where they end up in a year’s time.”
As well as its current drivers that are either racing in Formula 1 or close to it, Wolff says Mercedes is also looking at even younger talent that could one day replace Hamilton.
“We are trying to keep our eyes open to try and identify the next Lewis Hamilton for in five, six, or seven years when Lewis eventually decides that he had enough of Formula 1. So far, we are approaching this with a completely open mindset. We are even looking at karting – we’re supporting a young Italian boy that is barely 12 years old. We enjoy doing that, and so far it’s just about identifying the talent, no matter where they are at the moment.”