Toto Wolff admits there are both marketing and sporting reasons to sign Sebastian Vettel, but does not expect to make a decision on the Mercedes driver line-up in the near future.
Vettel is out of contract in 2021 and will leave Ferrari at the end of the season, with Carlos Sainz having already been signed to replace him. That means the four-time world champion is available at a time when Mercedes has yet to extend the contracts of either Lewis Hamilton or Valtteri Bottas beyond the end of this year, and Wolff says Vettel’s ability is not the only thing that would be attractive about a possible move.
“Of course, German drivers in a German vehicle may be a good marketing story, but first and foremost we are only focused on performance,” Wolff told ORF. “And Sebastian is someone who is really good, but it is also about pursuing a long-term strategy here, which we have repeatedly followed in recent years. And that’s where we are somewhat on the long leash of Mercedes – they let us make our decisions.”
Mercedes does not need to rush into a decision given that it also manages the careers of Esteban Ocon and George Russell – racing for Renault and Williams respectively – and with the Ferrari line-up confirmed, Wolff said he is also keen to take his time when it comes to his driver line-up because of the impact any change could have on a team once racing resumes this season.
“It is somewhat difficult to manage if you have an entire season with a driver who will be driving for a rival team next year,” he said. “What do you do with all your innovations and with all the learning you have with the car throughout the year?”
Hamilton had been linked with a move to Ferrari but there are no longer any vacancies at Maranello, so he is expected to sign a contract extension at some point. However, there is less certainty over Bottas’ future, as the Finn has only ever been given one-year deals by Mercedes.