Mercedes to wait on Hamilton deal as F1 gears up for start - GulfToday

Mercedes to wait on Hamilton deal as F1 gears up for start


Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton in action during the race in Budapest, Hungary. File / Reuters

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff will wait until the new season starts before discussing the renewal of a contract for six-time world champion Lewis Hamilton.

But Wolff said talks with Hamilton would not preclude a move for Sebastian Vettel, who is set to leave Ferrari at the end of the campaign.

A Formula One season delayed by the coronavirus is due to start in Austria in July and Wolff told a conference call Wednesday he hoped to have an agreement in place “pretty soon” with Hamilton.

The 35-year-old British driver is expected to agree a new contract, but Wolff said no talks had yet taken place.

“We didn’t see each other over lockdown, we were in different parts of the world but in regular contact,” said Wolff.

“We didn’t work on any agreement between us but there is a lot of trust, we’ve been together for a long time and never in this time did we have to take the contract out and actually read what was written because it comes so naturally.

“Once racing resumes we will spend some time together, take the contract out of the cupboard, look at the timings, the numbers, the rights, and hopefully have something pretty soon.”

As for the prospect of Vettel joining Mercedes, Wolff said: “We owe it to a four-time world champion not to come out and say straightaway ‘no’. You need to think about it.

“On the other side we have a fantastic line-up and I am very happy with both our pilots (Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas) and George (Russell, the Williams driver who is part of Mercedes’ programme).”

Meanwhile Wolff said he intended to stay with the Mercedes team as currently organised following reports linking him with a buyout involving Aston Martin -- a company in which he is a shareholder.

“With regards to my future, I have bought a few shares in Aston Martin as a financial investment...(but) my executive functions are unchanged at Mercedes,” he said.

“I am team principal and a shareholder. It’s clear when there are no other headlines that the Aston Martin thing caused some waves. I’m planning with Mercedes and have the best intentions to stay here and that is unchanged.”

Meanwhile, former Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone is trying to find a buyer for the once-mighty Williams team, saying it would be “a terrible thing to lose” the name from the grid.

Williams’ golden age in the 1980s and 1990s under founder Frank is a distant memory. In those years Nelson Piquet, Nigel Mansell and Alain Prost were among a clutch of world champions.

But the last of both their nine constructors’ titles and seven drivers’ crowns came in 1997.

Frank Williams remains team principal but his daughter, Claire, is responsible for the day-to-day running of the team. The nadir of a steady decline came last year, when they registered just one point in the constructors’ championship.

Last week the Williams Grand Prix Holdings group reported an adjusted loss of £13 million ($16 million) for the year ending 2019 and responded to the blow by seeking new investment.

A minority or majority stake will be offered to investors, along with the option for an outright buyout. Ecclestone says he is actively seeking a potential buyer.

“Williams would be a great loss, 100 per cent,” he told AFP by phone from his home in Switzerland. “I am looking around to find people who could and might be involved.”

Ecclestone admits the challenge could be even greater, with the financial fall-out from COVID-19 likely to be severe.

“Owning a team is a very expensive hobby,” said the former F1 boss, who is expecting his fourth child in the coming weeks.

The 89-year-old Englishman and Frank Williams, who is 78, are old friends, having been among the co-founders of the Formula One Constructors’ Association in 1974.

Ecclestone, who transformed the sport into a commercial giant over several decades, said the team desperately needed new owners.

“I hope it is not the end of the Williams team,” he said.

“It would be the end of an era but I hope that someone who can afford to run the team properly can be found as it is a terrible thing to lose a team like that.

“It is not thinkable. Dear old Frank had to work so hard to make sure the team competed and that happened and now to see it disappear like that, it’s not good.


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