Mercedes Team Principal Toto Wolff said this week that he has no “bad words” for rivals Red Bull following Max Verstappen’s controversial Formula 1 world championship victory. Last month, the Dutchman won his first title in Abu Dhabi thanks to a controversial decision by race director Michael Masi to allow some lapped cars to overtake the safety car. This infuriated Mercedes, who challenged the result, but had their argument dismissed by the FIA. Lewis Hamilton was livid during the race – he said over team radio that the race had been “manipulated”.
Since the historic result, which denied Hamilton a record-breaking eight world title, speculation surrounding whether the F1 legend will return to the sport for next year has swamped the news agenda.
Wolff hasn’t confirmed what his driver will do next season, but once admitted that Mercedes need to be prepared for when Hamilton finally decides to retire.
He made the comments in January last year, when Hamilton was in negotiations for a new contract at Mercedes.
On Hamilton’s future, Wolff said: “It doesn’t worry me at all, because I will always respect Lewis’s decisions.
‘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.”
In July, it was announced that Hamilton signed a new deal with Mercedes, keeping him there until 2023.
At the time, Hamilton said: “It is hard to believe it’s been nearly nine years working with this incredible team and I’m excited we’re going to continue our partnership for two more years.
“We’ve accomplished so much together but we still have a lot to achieve, both on and off the track.”
He continued: “I’m incredibly proud and grateful of how Mercedes has supported me in my drive to improve diversity and equality in our sport.
“They have held themselves accountable and made important strides in creating a more diverse team and inclusive environment.
“Thank you to all the dedicated and talented individuals at Mercedes whose hard work makes it all possible and the Board for their continued trust in me.
“We’re entering a new era of car which will be challenging and exciting and I can’t wait to see what else we can achieve together.”
Mercedes appeared to hint on social media that Hamilton will return next season.
The team tweeted a picture of the star last weekend alongside a caption saying: “Adversity causes some to break; others to break records.”
The new season gets under way on March 20 at the Bahrain Grand Prix. This time Hamilton will be joined by a new teammate.
Valtteri Bottas is moving on to Alfa Romeo and young talent George Russell is taking up his empty Mercedes seat.
Red Bull’s lineup of Verstappen and Sergio Perez is set to stay the same, while Ferrari and McLaren will also stick with Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, and Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo respectively.
Formula 1 is set for big changes – in 2022, the regulation changes will mean the cars will look different than we are used to.
The aim is to create closer racing with the potential for more overtakes.
Another change is the new 18 inch wheels, designed with the goal of reducing the amount the tyres overheat when they slide – a primary aspect that should help with closer racing.