Mercedes boss Toto Wolff ‘hopes’ Lewis Hamilton will stay at the team beyond this season.
The 36-year-old only agreed to a one-year deal last month and is set to become a free agent again next year.
Clearly a difference of opinion on key matters prevented a longer arrangement from being struck, but both sides seem to have softened their attitudes here in Bahrain, giving encouragement that their partnership could endure into 2022.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff (R) admits he ‘hopes’ Lewis Hamilton will agree to extend his deal
Hamilton claimed on Thursday that he had no plans to stop racing, and Wolff, when asked if he thought Hamilton would remain at Mercedes, said: ‘I hope so. The journey that we have had together has been very successful.
‘He has been a Mercedes driver since his go-karting years and has never raced a single weekend in Formula One without a Mercedes engine, so it is the logical continuation of the story.’
But the situation remains muddied — and Wolff’s support caveated — especially with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Williams’ rising star George Russell also in the running.
The Austrian said: ‘There are lots of balls in the air and we are always trying to do the best for the team in the long term while being loyal to our current driver line-up. Discussions are going to happen, but not as late as January this time.
‘We don’t want to leave it until February again to confirm our two drivers. Valtteri (Bottas) signed last summer, this is when it should happen. It allows the driver to concentrate on the job.’
Wolff said Hamilton had been on a ‘very successful’ journey with the team since 2013