Latest Episode | Cut To The Race Podcast
Team Principal Toto Wolff has said Lewis Hamilton could leave Mercedes if the team can’t provide a championship-winning car.
Since the competitive season of 2021 that saw Mercedes and Red Bull go head to head, Mercedes have failed to be as competitive as they once were. In 2021, Lewis Hamilton battled Max Verstappen for the championship with the latter coming out on top.
Last year in 2022, Verstappen continued to dominate with Mercedes finishing third in the Constructors’ Championship. The Silver Arrows had a very under-whelming year that many were sad to see.
With hopes of a better 2023, Mercedes were eager to come back stronger. However, unfortunately for the team, this season hasn’t gone the way they would have hoped.
After just one round out of the 23-race season, Toto Wolff acknowledged that Mercedes is already looking at another car concept. George Russell then admitted that he is ready to “sacrifice” this season in order to develop Mercedes’ car.
This weekend, F1 are in Saudi Arabia to race at the Jeddah Corniche circuit. After two practice sessions, Mercedes could be looking at a lacklustre weekend. In FP1, Russell and Hamilton finished in P5 and P6 respectively; but in FP2, whilst Russell remained in P5, Hamilton was out of the top 10 in P11.
Friday comes to a close in Jeddah ✅ On to the weekend. pic.twitter.com/JCgvYqintp
— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) March 17, 2023
Now, Wolff has said Hamilton could be leaving the team rather soon.
Hamilton leaving Mercedes: Sooner rather than later
After day one in Saudi Arabia, Wolff has expressed his thoughts on Hamilton staying at Mercedes. The Brit is entering the second and final year of his contract with Mercedes; he signed a two-year deal back in 2021. He has yet to renew his contract with Mercedes, but Wolff is “absolutely confident” that a renewal will be signed.
However, there is now some long-term doubt in the Team Principal’s mind. Wolff has said:
“Nevertheless, if he [Hamilton] wants to win another championship, he needs to make sure he has the car.
“If we cannot demonstrate we are able to give him the car in the next couple of years, he needs to look everywhere.”
Wolff continued saying: “I don’t think he’s doing it at this stage. But I will have no grouch if that happens in a year or two.” Whilst Hamilton hasn’t signed a new deal with Mercedes as of yet, Wolff did confirm that he is in talks with Hamilton about it. He said:
“We are talking about when we want to do it and how. We just need to change some terms – the dates basically.”
“I don’t want to lose any more time”
In 2022, Mercedes suffered massively from porpoising, which severely impacted their performance. Hamilton was the driver to be more affected by this out of the two. Recently, James Vowles departed the team going to Williams as well. But, James Allison, who was the Chief Technical Director of Mercedes before leaving in 2021, will be returning to the team.
With Mercedes under-performing, Hamilton may not win his eighth championship. The seven-time world champion is currently in his 10th season with Silver Arrows and recently, Hamilton expressed his frustrations at the W14.
He said that Mercedes didn’t listen to him when he suggested things that were wrong with both the 2022 and 2023 car. Hamilton said that the team need to be “owning up” to weaknesses.
Wolff has now explained where things went wrong for Mercedes. He noted that the team overall are “not happy” with the current package that is the W14. Wolff said:
“We’re, overall, not happy about the amount of downforce, the mechanical balance. All of it. It never comes alone.”
The Mercedes Team Principal said that last year the car got “better and better”. Whilst the team “really tried hard to make it work,” they know they “were proven wrong”. Wolff admitted that the car concept was “very different” to the fastest cars.
For 2023, Wolff said that he himself and the team don’t want to lose anymore time. He said:
“We really tried to stick to it and we don’t want to, under any circumstance, run in a one-way street saying: ‘We’re going to make this work no matter what’ because it doesn’t work.
“I don’t want to lose more time. My colleagues don’t want to as well.”
For Mercedes, 2023 will be a tough year. The team have struggled compared to the front runners in the opening round, so much so that a customer team car stood on the podium.
Upgrades for Mercedes are due in a few races time but if the struggles of the W14 persist, 2023 could be an unfortunate year for the team. The question that remains is if Mercedes can’t turn it around, where will Hamilton go?
Headline Image: GettyImages