Formula One has been responding to the news that seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton will remain in the championship for at least two more years after signing an extension with Mercedes for 2022 and 2023.
It means Hamilton will be just one week short of 39 years old when his new deal ends as the Briton looks to become the most successful driver in F1 history with an eighth world title.
Hamilton, an avid user of social media, posted the announcement on his Instagram, in conjunction with Mercedes, with many taking to the comment section of the site to congratulate him.
His team-mate Valtteri Bottas, who says he has yet to start contract negotiations for 2022 with the team, replied on Instagram to say, “Congratulations, well deserved.”
Meanwhile, George Russell, who is being heavily tipped to replace Bottas at Mercedes and become Hamiton’s team-mate next season, posted, “The GOAT. Great news for Mercedes and for F1. Congrats man!”
1996 world champion Damon Hill posted, “The Lewis vs Max era continues,” with his brother Nicolas, who is also a racing driver, writing, “Amazing my bro! So proud of you! More records break and I can’t wait to watch you all the way.”
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff had already assured fans coming into this season they would not be dragging their heels into next season with an update on Hamilton’s future, and explained why they wanted to put pen to paper early.
“As we enter a new era of F1 from 2022 onwards, there can be no better driver to have in our team than Lewis,” said Wolff in a statement.
“His achievements in this sport speak for themselves, and with his experience, speed and racecraft, he is at the peak of his powers.
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff says it’s too early in the season to “sacrifice” Lewis Hamilton’s team-mate Valtteri Bottas as they battle Red Bull for the Drivers’ and Constructors titles this season. However, the Austrian was unable to rule out the possibility of it happening in the future.
Bottas has had a torrid start to his 2021 season. The Finn has so far been unable to finish higher than third in a race, with two DNFs to his name, and currently sits 72 points behind championship leader Max Verstappen.
However, Bottas remains adamant his bad start bears no reflection on any potential delays in his contract talks, and it’s currently all business as usual at Mercedes.
But it looks like the Finn’s championship-winning chances have slipped away from him, with Bottas sitting fifth in the standings as the title battle heats up between Hamilton and Verstappen up front.
Despite this, Mercedes boss Wolff said it was too early in the season to panic and, when asked if a driver – essentially Bottas – could be sacrificed in the title fight, he told Sky Sports F1, “No, I think it’s much too early.”
“Nobody knows about the constructive meetings we have with the team between races and over race weekends, I don’t think it’s anything new,” he added. “I always try and be direct, and I’m glad if you liked it, but I wasn’t happy obviously in that situation.
“But that’s racing, that’s emotions, it’s so hard to describe the feeling when you’re in the car, we’re not in a tea party, we’re in an elite top sport and I want to do well, I want the team to do well, so we race with emotions, even for a Finn.”
Valtteri Bottas was left fuming over Mercedes’ team radio during the French Grand Prix, after surrendering second place to Max Verstappen in the final few laps at Paul Ricard. Red Bull opted for a two-stop strategy for Verstappen over their main title rivals, which ultimately paid off with the Dutchman securing victory in France over Lewis Hamilton.
After the move, Bottas was heard shouting to his race engineer, Riccardo Musconi: “Why the f*** does nobody listen to me when I say it’s going to be a two-stopper? F***ing hell.”
His team-mate Hamilton was leading the race at the time, with the Finn behind him running in second, struggling on the hard tyre for the final few laps of the race.
Verstappen and Red Bull had switched up strategies, and pitted onto the medium compound of tyre in the latter part of the race to take the fight to Mercedes, whilst also trying to avoid their rivals performing the undercut.
And it worked, as the championship leader swept past the Finn on fresher tyres, before his team-mate Perez did the same thing few laps later, despite also being on the older hard tyre.
“My tyres are f***ing finished,” said Bottas. “Copy, we understand,” came the reply from Musconi.
But the strong weekend, up until the race, did not turn out to be as strong as Bottas, or Mercedes, would have liked after Sunday.
Red Bull and Verstappen pitted for a second time onto the medium tyre, sweeping past Hamilton on the penultimate lap, and extending his lead at the top of the standings by 12 points after a thrilling battle between Mercedes and Red Bull.
An elated team boss Christian Horner was heard over the radio congratulating Verstappen and saying: “Well done mate, payback, great job.”
The Dutchman replied: “What a race man, thank you so much,” after struggling with his team radio for much of the race.
Lewis Hamilton says he’s ‘silenced the myth’ after outperforming team-mate Valtteri Bottas to start second on the grid ahead of the French Grand Prix, despite switching his chassis with the Finn this weekend.
Max Verstappen secured his fifth career pole position ahead of the race on Sunday, with Bottas starting third, as the championship leader looks to extend his lead at the top of the standings.
However, Bottas has been rapid across the three practice sessions in Paul Ricard, after two tough weekends, with some suggesting it could be down to Mercedes swapping his chassis with Hamilton’s.
All season, Hamilton has been driving chassis number six, with Bottas in chassis number four ahead of the French Grand Prix. Yet now, Mercedes have switched the pairing, with the Briton now in the number four.
However, Hamilton, who starts ahead of his team-mate, says he’s silenced his critics by qualifying ahead of Bottas.
“It’s been a really hard weekend,” said the seven-time world champion, “Mentally and not physically but just trying to get the car into a happy place.
“And it gives everybody a bit of clarity… I guess we’ll see in the coming weeks really.”
However, the 2016 world champion Rosberg is unconvinced that a young driver would be the best team-mate for Hamilton.
The 35-year-old does not believe Wolff should make the switch, but conceded that Formula 1 fans might be keen for a change.
“That’s the big question at the moment. I think from a British perspective, you can be really excited about the future because you have two extremely talented up-and-coming drivers,” Rosberg told Sky Sports.
You have to feel for Valtteri Bottas. When he signed for Mercedes in 2017 – it must have felt like a dream come true. The fastest car in Formula 1, the most successful team, a championship winning package – and yet, coming into his fifth year at the team, he’s mostly had a string of second place finishes on his CV, constantly overshadowed by his team-mate, Lewis Hamilton.
And finishing second is not to be sniffed at, but you ask any racing driver where they want to finish, and 10 times out of 10 it’ll be ‘the top step.’
So has this now become a case of wrong place, wrong time for the Finn?
It’s difficult to answer that because it’s incredibly hard to imagine F1 without his team-mate. He’s helped shape the championship into what it is now, on and off the track, he’s smashed more titles than I can remember – he is about to become the most decorated driver in F1 history, if he wins his eighth world title.
With the Briton all but signing the contract to say he’s staying on at Mercedes for a few more years, where does that leave Bottas?
Max Verstappen is a natural go to, if we’re talking about who can replace Bottas, however away from the fine print in his contract meaning potentially he could head to Mercedes, would he want to? At the moment, Verstappen has the second best package on the grid, and has already proved he’s an incredibly talented driver.
But realistically, with Hamilton staying at Mercedes, It wouldn’t make sense for Verstappen to make the move just yet. The Dutchman would come in as the second driver to Hamilton, who has been with Mercedes for nearly a decade, winning six world titles with them.
Right now, Verstappen is the number one driver at Red Bull – he’s been affiliated with the team since 2014, before being promoted to the top team in 2016, with a mid-season swap with Daniil Kvyat that saw him become the youngest ever race winner.
And having made his debut in the championship at just 17 years old, he’s already in his seventh season, and admitted: “I have a contract at Red Bull until 2023, and I am very happy where I am. There is no reason to change.”
And in some ways, you have to believe him. If he comes in alongside Hamilton, he could lose his stature as the best driver in the team. If he stays at Red Bull and beats Hamilton, he becomes the only driver to have beaten Mercedes in seven years of dominance. To me, that seems a much tastier choice.
WILLIAMS’ GEORGE RUSSELL:
Arguably the most viable replacement for Bottas, if indeed he decides to leave Williams when his contract is up for renewal at the end of the season, with some reporting they thought Mercedes could even bring the Briton in mid-season, something that looks highly doubtful will happen.
Mercedes have denied this is the case, with Toto Wolff, the team-principal saying that “unless he [Bottas] gets flu and can’t drive he’s going to be in that car”.
Wolff joked that they don’t intend to play “musical chairs” like a certain rival might – a nod to Red Bull’s occasional revolving door, swapping drivers mid-season as they did in both 2016 and 2019.
Of course not forgetting he’s an actual junior driver for the team, Russell has been waiting in the wings patiently after getting a taste at the front when he almost won deputising for Hamilton at the Sakhir Grand Prix last season.
Though there were some concerns he had blown his shot in Imola when colliding with the Finn after a high-speed crash, it was a concern that Mercedes dismissed, with the Williams driver remaining a strong contender for the seat.
ALPINE’S ESTEBAN OCON:
Ocon has arguably been waiting in the wings even longer than Russell, so long that he actually forfeited his role as a Mercedes junior driver in order to join Renault on a two-year deal.
Despite sitting out 2019 as reserve driver for Mercedes, the Frenchman has impressed in his second year with the team with three points finishes out of four, outperforming two-time champion team-mate Fernando Alonso.
And Wolff hasn’t ruled the 24-year-old out. “Ocon is in the second year of a two-year contract with Renault or Alpine F1 this year, Russell is with Williams this year. So there are some variations for 2022,” he said.
“But,” he added, “until then our full support goes to Valtteri and Lewis.”
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff took a cheeky dig at rivals Red Bull as he made it clear Valtteri Bottas will not be losing his seat to George Russell at any point this season, joking that the Milton Keynes-based outfit like to play “musical chairs”.
Recent reports have suggested Russell, the Mercedes junior driver impressing with Williams, could displace Bottas as Lewis Hamilton‘s team-mate midway through the season.
Bottas and Russell collided at Imola earlier this season and were involved in a heated exchange of views afterwards, though the younger driver afterwards apologised for his reaction to the incident.
Russell, 23, is waiting patiently for a shot at Mercedes having impressed while driving Hamilton’s W12 in the Sakhir Grand Prix last year. He looked likely to seal a maiden Formula One win were it not for a team tyre mix-up.
He achieved his best ever qualifying position in the Williams in Portimao last weekend too, starting 11th although he ended up 16th at the end of the race, and has fared well for the British team despite their struggles in recent years.
Meanwhile although Bottas started on pole in Portugal, he trails Hamilton by 37 points after just three races and is also 29 behind Red Bull’s Max Verstappen having had to retire at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix due to his coming together with Russell.
But Wolff insists there are no plans to swap out the Finn in favour of Russell before the end of this season, and took a swipe at Red Bull while discussing the Silver Arrows’ driver line-up.
“Yeah, absolutely, unless he gets flu and can’t drive he’s going to be in that car,” the Austrian decision-maker said of Bottas.
“I see no reason to change as these guys over there [gesturing to Red Bull] like to play, how do you say with the chairs? Musical chairs. So nope, no change expected.
“If you’re not happy with your wife and you start to look for other ones it’s not going to improve the relationship.
“I try to work on the relationship with my driver and achieve the best result for him before I’m starting to flirt with somebody else.”
Red Bull have famously changed drivers mid-season on several occasions, last doing so when they replaced Pierre Gasly with Alex Albon midway through 2019.
Bottas, 31, is out of contract at the end of the season and since joining Mercedes from Williams in 2017 has racked up nine race wins, 49 podium finishes and 17 pole positions.
“And if I’m being honest, I think we have the best line-up currently in terms of deliverables and the general knowledge in terms of moving our car forwards.
“At some stage, it’s going to shift, it’s going to change. I’m not going to be here forever, Valtteri won’t be here forever.
“But right now I think we’ve delivered time and time again over the years and we continue to.
“Valtteri finished on pole for the last race and it’s only the fourth race. I think people need to give him a break and just let him continue doing what he’s doing.”
It is unlikely to be the last time Wolff has to speak out on the prospect of Russell being promoted to Mercedes with Bottas and Hamilton both out of contract later this year, just as the young Briton is with Williams, whom he has raced for since 2019.
Lewis Hamilton has leapt to the defence of his Mercedes F1 team-mate Valtteri Bottas by telling the Finn’s critics to cut him some slack.
Hamilton was speaking to reporters at the official pre-race press conference ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix, and shared his take on the rumours that are piling the pressure on his on-track colleague ahead of this weekend’s race.
Earlier this week, reports from the Daily Mail quoted a source within the wider Mercedes team stating the Finn was “not up to it,” and that the team was “losing faith” in the Finnish racer.
Bottas fired back at those claims ahead of this weekend’s Spanish GP, calling the rumours “bull****.”
“I know that I’m not going to be replaced in the middle of the season,” said Bottas. “As a team, we don’t do that.
“If I’m really honest, I feel we have the best line-up currently in terms of deliverables, in terms of the equilibrium that’s within our team and the general knowledge, in terms of moving our car forwards.”
Rumours have suggested that Bottas could be replaced by Mercedes junior driver and current Williams ace George Russell, with some even believing Mercedes could consider making a rare mid-season change to better support Hamilton in his battle against Max Verstappen and Red Bull in the title fight.
But, with both Hamilton and Bottas only contracted to the end of the current season, the Brit hinted that the lineup at the team could be set to change soon, regardless.
“At some stage, it’s going to shift, it’s going to change,” he stated.
“I’m not going to be here forever, Valtteri won’t be here forever. But right now I think we’ve delivered time and time again over the years and we continue to.
“Valtteri just qualified on pole the last race. it’s only the fourth race. I think people need to give him a break and just let him focus on doing what he’s doing.”
Hamilton heads into race weekend in Barcelona in excellent form, both in terms of the 2021 season and from his prior visits to Catalunya. The Englishman has won each of the last four races at the circuit, and hopes to make it five in a row on Sunday.
But Hamilton said he doesn’t think Mercedes will have a clear run from the lights to the flag on Sunday’s race, with Red Bull looking much stronger in 2021, and the chasing pack, including McLaren and a seemingly revitalised Ferrari, edging closer to contention.
It means Mercedes, Hamilton and Bottas all know that they have to be on their game to maintain their place at the head of the field in Spain.
“Definitely the first test (at the start of the season) didn’t look great and at the first race we were still up there, but you could see the deficit from us to the Red Bulls,” he explained.
“But I think in terms of overall output through the weekend, we’ve managed to do a better job.
“We really can’t continue to rely on mistakes from others, we’ve got to get our heads down and continue to work. We’ve got a good package but it does have its weak areas that we need to continue to work on.
“In terms of my side, I’m really happy with the output. Naturally, you’re always trying to raise the bar, make as few mistakes as possible but they’ve been there but I’m grateful for them as they make you stronger when you learn from them.
“Max performing exceptionally well,” Hamilton added. “He has a championship-winning car, no doubt, and a championship-winning team who can really pull off the job this year if we don’t do our job.
“So I definitely think experience will help us in terms of how we approach weekends and how we battle back from touch weekends and I think, from my side, I would like to think experience will help, but you still have to do the job and minimal mistakes.
“Reliability is going to be a big deal this year, and as you’ve seen, even these fastest lap extra points are going to be significant by the end of the year.”
Lewis Hamilton is expected to stay with Mercedes for 2022 season and team principal Toto Wolff is mulling over whether to axe Valtteri Bottas for George Russell. Speculation surrounding the second Silver Arrows seat will likely rumble on late into the year but former F1 driver Paul di Resta reckons Hamilton will have a preference on who will be racing alongside him.
Hamilton is out of contract at the end of the season but both he and Mercedes would like to continue their partnership.
That leaves question marks hanging over who will be driving alongside the seven-time world champion.
Bottas has failed to challenge Hamilton for the world title over the last few years so Wolff is considering switching things up.
Youngster Russell deputised for a Covid-stricken Hamilton at the Sakhir Grand Prix last season and thoroughly impressed.
However, Di Resta reckons Hamilton would prefer Mercedes to stick with what they have.
“Yes, George is ambitious. Yes, he’s probably the future of Mercedes Benz. But that’s where the decision becomes incredibly hard for Toto,” Di Resta told Sky Sports F1.
“I’m sure Lewis doesn’t want the foundations of that team to change because it’s won world championships, it’s won Constructors’ Championships, for a very good reason.
“And when you see the performance of Mr Hamilton on a day like today, if you’ve got anything that’s gonna doubt that do you take that away?
“I think Lewis if he’s wise, will probably give Valtteri a lot of support, and show the team that he is a team player, absolutely a team player.”
Hamilton took an eight-point lead at the top of the Drivers’ Championship with victory at the Portuguese Grand Prix on Sunday.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen crossed the chequered flag in second place, 30 second behind the leads.
Bottas came home in third, cementing another strong haul of points for Mercedes in the Constructors’ Championship.
Wolff was asked last week if his 2022 driver line-up had become any clearer but he is still uncertain.
“I hope one day I wake up and it becomes clear,” the Austrian explained.
“I think we need to look into the season, how the next races unfold, and then it is a judgment call, I believe. Not a very scientific response, but I haven’t got any at the moment.”
Perhaps his main priority should be trying to tie Hamilton down to a longer deal.
When asked if their partnership will continue next year, Wolff said: “Yes, there is no reason why not.
“It’s the best place to be. He has been with us a long time and I think as long as we can provide the outlook for a competitive package, I see no reason why we shouldn’t be together and continue the marriage.”