Formula 1: Toto Wolff makes surprising Lewis Hamilton revelation

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes Formula 1 (Photo by BRYN LENNON/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes Formula 1 (Photo by BRYN LENNON/POOL/AFP via Getty Images) /

Toto Wolff revealed that the subject of George Russell’s Mercedes Formula 1 replacement performance has not come up in talks about a new contract for Lewis Hamilton.

We are approaching the halfway point of the offseason between the 2020 and 2021 Formula 1 seasons, and four-time reigning/seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton is still without a deal to compete in the upcoming season with just two months to go until the first lights-out of the year.

Hamilton’s contract with Mercedes expired on Friday, January 1, and for the last several weeks, he has not been an official member of the team during contract negotiations.

There have been all kinds of reports about where the two parties stand in regard to a new deal for the 36-year-old Briton, with some stating that the whole thing is a mere publicity stunt and others stating that the gap between what Hamilton wants and what the Silver Arrows are willing to give may be too big to overcome.

One fact that has often been discussed is Mercedes junior driver George Russell, who competes full-time for Williams.

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After Hamilton tested positive for COVID-19 ahead of the Sakhir Grand Prix at Bahrain International Circuit in early December, the Brackley-based team called upon the 22-year-old Briton to replace him, and he dominated the event as if he had been with the team for years.

Despite not taking the pole position, he took the lead in turn one from teammate Valtteri Bottas, and he went on to dominate the race. It took two different issues, one a botched pit stop by the team and another a tire puncture, to stop him from winning. He still finished in ninth place, just one spot behind Bottas. He had passed him with ease twice prior, once at the start and once after the pit issue.

Everyone knew that what Russell did didn’t exactly make Bottas look good when it comes to a 2022 Mercedes seat. However, with Hamilton being the man still out of a contract, all of that attention was diverted to a potential 2021 Mercedes seat for the Williams driver.

With Hamilton supposedly asking for far more than Mercedes were willing to give, did Russell’s dominant performance in the championship-winning W11 — one that literally left him bloody due to the fact that the cockpit was set up for the much smaller Hamilton — effectively cap the seven-time world champion’s value?

Team principal Toto Wolff says that this point hasn’t even come up. Here is what he revealed about the negotiations, according to Autosport.

"“We never played the George Russell card. He did incredibly well and will one day be in a top car, but our long-standing partnership is not at all about making any threatening gestures. We know we want to race together. And now we have to negotiate the contract.”"

Whether or not he is to believed is up to each individual.

It is, of course, impossible to determine whether or not Russell is as good as or better than Hamilton after one start, and it would be unfair to assume anything given what Hamilton has achieved throughout his legendary Formula 1 career, specifically with Mercedes since he joined the team in 2013.

However, given how much cheaper Russell would be than Hamilton, it’s not unjustifiable for the matter to come up after how dominant he was in his lone relief start.

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Wolff expects Hamilton to sign a new contract with Mercedes in the near future, or at least sometime before preseason testing begins at Bahrain International Circuit on Friday, March 12. The season is scheduled to begin at the same venue on Sunday, March 28 with the Bahrain Grand Prix.