Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Yas Marina, 2019

Hamilton ‘75% likely’ to stay at Mercedes, says Wolff

2019 F1 season

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Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff says there is a “75 percent” chance Lewis Hamilton will stay at the team beyond 2020, amid rumors the six-times champion could be lured away by Ferrari.

Speculation over Hamilton’s future intensified last weekend after Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto said he was “happy” to know Hamilton was potentially available to join another team in the 2021 F1 season.

However Wolff believes the chance Hamilton will stay with his current team is high. “I would rate it personally – and I’m leaning myself out of the window here – I would rate it at 75 percent,” he said.

“I give you [that] number because I think from the rational, everything speaks for continuation of the relationship, from both sides. But equally, there is a 25 percent chance that we are not in control of. So we’ll see how the next months pan out.”

Wolff said he and Hamilton have “talked very openly about Ferrari and what the brand represents” and expects Mercedes will remain an attractive option for him.

“For me, as long as we are able to produce a quick car and powerful engine, we will always have the opportunity to decide who drives the car. And I think that will no doubt be Lewis’ priority to try to make it work with the team.

[icon2019autocoursempu]”I will try to make it work with Lewis, but the most important thing is that we have a good car. [Then] we are able to decide for ourselves.”

Mercedes’ experience of unexpectedly losing Nico Rosberg after he won the world championship in 2016 shows “change is something that can also provide opportunity”, Wolff added.

“I know that sounds like a little bit like philosophical guru talk. But when Nico decided to quit my initial reaction was actually the opportunity provided to us.

“I think that the choice with Valtteri [Bottas] proved to be the right choice for the team. So I still very much hope that our relationship continues. But I’m not entirely in control of that so if one important member breaks out that certainly provides risk and opportunity at the same time.”

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43 comments on “Hamilton ‘75% likely’ to stay at Mercedes, says Wolff”

  1. He is also 75% likely to reach 7 titles and 93 wins. But then we’ll see, maybe he will listen to Greta Thunberg to much.

    1. Roger eastgate
      2nd December 2019, 8:17

      Hamilton must not go to Ferrari as they have no organisation

      1. What is even more interesting and concrete is the message Vettel is receiving from Binotto’s comments!

    2. 93 specifically is quite a specific number, since 92 will already give him the most wins on his own…

    3. I think “75%” is an interesting insight into the genuine possibility of this move in Woolf’s eyes. Ultimately, who knows, but you could say:

      a) Points in favour: driving for Ferrari and historical status; ‘doing a Schumacher’ and getting the team back to consistent winning ways; money; dip in Mercedes 2020 form (if applicable); new regulations allowing for team catch-up throughout season(s);

      b) Points against: Leclerc’s form; uncertainty; likely effect on Mercedes (top brass exodus, potentially beginning of end for team and therefore employees); at best he will ‘only’ have Schumacher’s record of 7 world titles by close of 2020, and not the stand-alone record of 8; dip in Ferrari form on 2020 (if applicable); spoiling of Mercedes career loyalty an brand association.

      My feeling: unlikely.

  2. …or accept Sir Fank’s invite and a new, real challenge??

    1. is that a challenge or a lost cause?

      1. So much of a lost cause that Sir Frank Quixote should just go ahead and rename his team Rocinante Racing

  3. [We have] talked very openly about Ferrari and what the brand represents

    There is only one Ferrari F1 team, and this will be Lewis’s last chance to race for Ferrari. There’s so many permutations! On current form it seems Lewis should win some races in 2021 by driving for Mercedes, but could he do better at Ferrari? So what would Ferrari need to do to convince Lewis they are better than Mercedes and Red Bull?

    1. You write that almost as if it’s Lewis’ loss if he doesn’t take it @drycrust.

      Sure, if Hamilton would feel so flattered after “hearing some praise from them for the first time” that he felt compelled to don the red, face the tifosi (I sure hope that they would not go with the bananas and other explicit racist “cheering on” we saw in only too many football matches this year in Italy) and fail to win any titles with them, after hyping up how this is finally their chance this year, i.e. fulfilling a long standing tradition at Ferrari, he’s welcome to do so.

      But I sensed from his answer to that question in the press confercence, that there actually might be far less than a 20% chance that Hamilton would really consider joining Ferrari.

  4. Interestingly, it might be less than 75% that Mercedes will stay after 2020 (as owner of the team).

    1. Could it be that Ferrari has two motives? First to sign Hamilton if possible.

      But making a legitimate bid increases his value.
      Raising his salary, which is outside of the proposed cost caps, might be the most effective way to increase the cost of F1 to Mercedes, and increase the chance the board of directors will withdraw from F1.

  5. Toto is cool about it and just sent a message: if the car is good, we decide who drives it.

    Hamilton’s departure is the opportunity for him to sign Verstappen.

    What Hamilton needs to know is will Mercedes stay as PU supplier only sometime in the near future? Only Toto knows for sure, but HAM talking to Ferrari’s CEO means he knows a thing or two about negotiating.

    1. “Toto is cool about it and just sent a message: if the car is good, we decide who drives it.”

      Which is nonsensical really given that by the time the team knows if the cars actually any good or not, the season is already underway and the drivers have already signed up at least months before. Not to mention the fact that a driver like Hamilton can save a teams blushes if the car isn’t the best – Can you imagine the Merc of 2017/18 being driven by Bottas / Vettel? Would everyone be saying the Merc is dominant when its being trounced by a 2017/18 Ferrari / Hamilton combo?

      The bottom line to all this is that it really is up to Hamilton, not Merc, who drives that Merc. Given that Hamilton has to question – ahead of time – if Merc are going to be the right choice.

      1. Having said that I think the last few years have really shown that the driver still makes the difference and the only driver on the grid they can be sure would do what hamilton does for them is verstappen currently (have to see if le clerc and russell have what it takes). It does give both drivers power also because only 2 teams can have them.

    2. Only Facts! Couple of things.
      Why would Verstappen move if the RB is competitive and it certainly looks like it will be short of a huge design stuff up over the break.
      Why would Merc take on Verstappen when they have two very good young drivers in F1 already, Ocon and Russell. Yes I know Ocon is at Renault next yr, as far as I know he is on a one yr contract.

      1. petebaldwin (@)
        2nd December 2019, 13:26

        Mercedes want the “next Hamilton” – is that Ocon or Russell? I’m not so sure… As for Verstappen – he wants titles and as things stand, Mercedes are by far the best team to be at to win those.

      2. Ocon is a Perez, Hulkenberg, Bottas level uppermidfield driver, he’s never going to be top tier

        1. Bottas gestroyed Massa. Who in turn was on par with Raikkonen.

  6. Plot twist: Both Toto and Hamilton move to Ferrari.

    1. Makes total sense. Since driver’s salary and top management are excluded from the 2021 budget.

      Toto would take a lot of information with him, Liberty F1 would be pleased to see Ferrari winning, Hamilton would go for 8x WDC GOAT.

      But would Ferrari’s inner circle be comfortable with it? I mean, there’s always the possiblity of rejection. They would have to change a lot of people like the Brawn/Todd era.

    2. A la Ross Brawn/Michael Schumacher. That’d be something, to be honest. And also probably the only way that Ferrari has to win some championships in the next few years, really. I doubt, though, that they’re rational enough to pull that one off, @ho3n3r.

  7. Don’t see Lewis leaving.
    You may love him, you may hate him, but there’s one thing which must be undeniably attributed to him – loyalty.

    Lewis will never just jump to Ferrari [because of some random reason].
    He is loyal to Mercedes, he always was.
    His decision to leave McLaren was really a hard one, and which was in big part forced by McLaren’s incompetence in building cars and team. And even then Lewis went to Mercedes, he didn’t go to RBR or Ferrari.

    If Mercedes doesn’t drop the ball and keeps the high performance level (of team, and cars), then he will prefer to reach new heights with them, rather than trying to build new team at Ferrari in 1-3 years he will probably have left by then.

    1. I don’t think loyalty will have anything to do with it…. he obviously loves merc and what they have been able to achieve together…

      Maybe he will be interested in the challenge…. winning championships with 3 different teams??

      Correct me if I am wrong but I don’t think that has ever been done???

      1. Rubbing salt into the wounds of Alonso and Vettel who both came close but couldn’t do it for Ferrari….

        For me that would cement ham as the greatest of all time

      2. Fangio won titles with 4 teams (Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, Mercedes and Maserati). But that was another era.

      3. winning championships with 3 different teams??

        Correct me if I am wrong but I don’t think that has ever been done???

        If you insist, you are completely wrong, so I correct you.

        Alfa Romeo,

      4. Adding “…in the modern era” usually solves most of these “never been done before” issues :O)

        1. And I’m the best driver in my household.

    2. @dallein You can combine loyalty and the need to move on. Hamilton went through that dropping his father as manager, remember. I think the main issue for Hamilton would or will be feeling that Ferrari are really receptive to him being in the team, ready to listen to his feedback, including (big) improvements in their operational performance. But what Ferrari? I expect Vettel to leave this year (sudden surprise announcement, Rosberg-style, in the next few days?) or next. But if it’s this year, then Ferrari would need someone else for a year before signing Hamilton or Verstappen for 2021, or simply backing Leclerc as their top driver, probably good enough. Hamilton is guaranteed to deliver and Ferrari haven’t had a title since 2007, so it must be tempting for them. But he’s not going to be there that long if he does go.
      Personally I’d like to see it happen, it would be fascinating. The brand-loyalty stuff (to Mercedes) makes me a bit nauseous to be honest. It’s just corporate money in the end. What I can understand is Hamilton’s loyalty to team members, not wanting to leave them in a worse situation if he leaves. Is him continuing a condition, at least in part, for Mercedes to stay in Formula 1, for example? Without him or Verstappen as a replacement, how interested would they still be?

    3. one thing which must be undeniably attributed to him – loyalty.

      And yet the next paragraph you refer to him leaving McLaren who supported him from his early karting days :P
      He’s flirting more with Ferrari now than he ever flirted with Brawn/Mercedes when he was at McLaren.

      1. Wrt loyalty, sure there is loyalty, but that can also be fleeting, or vary in certain ways. In 2011 LH admitted off-track distractions were costing him on the track. Personally I think that started the process of the shine coming off the LH/Mac apple. I was not surprised at all when he moved to Merc, and I thought at the time it was time for him to leave that nest.

        Then there is 2016 when LH spent the bulk of the season implying a conspiracy that the team was favouring Nico. He riled up his following enough that TW felt compelled to publish a letter defending the 1500 staff at Mercedes and their integrity.

        If I am LH or Max…to me the two most desirable drivers on the grid (CL too but he has only just started at Ferrari so likely isn’t going anywhere soon), I am going to get through 2021 to see where the cars stand. Things are set for next year, and then sure some contracts have to be decided, but I can see some extensions happening to cover off 2021 while drivers get the lay of the land. The only way I can see LH or MV making a move is if they are absolutely convinced they no longer have the potential for wins and Championships where they are.

        And the thing is, the teams and the racing are supposed to close up, so perhaps we will no longer see a dominant team, but three to five strong teams and the rest will come down to the drivers…at least if Liberty gets their way. If LH and MV get the sense that there will be five pretty equal teams at the top, then they may as well stay home and rely on their skills seeing them through with a family in which they are engrained.

        It’s going to be so fascinating, but for the next two years I can’t see too many changes at the top…Max nor LH would want to risk moving away from the team that has just nailed the revolutionary new chapter. Unless of course they somehow get convinced, or really want to take the chance based on insider discussions they will have as the months go along.

        1. @robbie I agree it’s important not to get too gooey-eyed about loyalty. Mercedes were fairly cynical with Hamilton at Socchi, sacrificing a 1-2, leaving Hamilton down in third, to ensure Bottas got the win.

      2. @coldfly Lol it does seem like you are right about LH flirting more with Ferrari now than he ever did with Mercedes when he was still at Mac, but I’m sure that’s hard to measure or put any real meaning towards. He is certainly coming from two different worlds though, between the two scenarios.

        From Mac he had one Championship and it had been a long time since that happened, and I personally am convinced the shine had come off the apple and it was time for him to make a change. And for me, I believed Brawn the minute I heard him say that where a driver would want to be for 2014 onward would be with a works team. I fully thought at the time LH was making the right decision to go to Merc so in that sense a bit of a no-brainer.

        Now though, I think if LH is flirting with Ferrari it is because he is totally in the drivers seat, pun intended, and with all his successes he can tease, flirt, joke, enquire seriously on the qt, whatever he wants. It’s not like at this point the camera shot of him talking to someone at Ferrari would actually start rumours, so strong is his marriage with Merc. So surprising would be a move to Ferrari for him for now. At Mac, the marriage had started to fall apart. No need to flirt with Mercedes…let’s just move in together…it’s time.

        1. @robbie Button’s arrival at McLaren was already a push out the door for Hamilton. It left the team constantly having to deal with JB’s relative lack of pace, filtered through internal politics that shifted responsibility for that lack of pace away from the driver, and showed up in the constant issues affecting the car and team operations.

    4. Sort of contradictory!

  8. There are probably a lots of things to take into consideration:-
    Toto leaving MB …..they didnt even do well for one race without him this year, how would they do with him gone?
    Merc domination has to come to an end at some stage, and despite their success this year it is possible to see how the end could be just around the corner for any team that has dominated.
    Mercedes job cuts, electrification and the rule changes in ’21 – no company likes to pour money into F1 when they are shedding jobs. With the move to electric, how does MB justify committing to the new era of F1 & ICE/Hybrid, when they have publicly stated ICE development for road cars is to cease.
    ’21 is probably the last chance for Hamilton to move to Ferrari, and if he hits his figures next year then he has nothing to loose. For Ferrari it would be a huge PR win just to have him.

    1. @warfieldf1
      F1 is all advertising. It seems to me Hamilton’s star power is more valuable to Mercedes. Merc has dozens of models around the world in competitive segments. I could see his visibility helping get people into the showrooms. It seems it would help maintain the luxury image too. Now that Hamilton has become out spoken about emissions it could help with green initiatives that appeal to younger buyers.

      I don’t see how that is true for Ferrari. They are only an exclusive and iconic brand. Hamilton’s star power helps less because they have no equivalent to the A class or C class. I don’t see green initiatives being important to their sales either.

  9. I think it quite likely that Lewis will stay at Mercedes. However if he wins another title with Merc next year then he may well give a Ferrari a go. He would probably relish a new challenge by then and what would he really have to lose.

    It seems pretty certain that Max will want go to either Merc or Ferrari from 2021. Unless Red Bull are really in title contention next year of course. I can also see Seb returning to Red Bull if he gets the chance. There isn’t going to a seat at Merc for him. Either that or he might retire completely. I rate this 50/50 at the moment.

    1. @phil-f1-21 I’m confident that whatever happens next year performance wise between the teams, that will have little to do with what will happen in 2021, as the cars will just be so so very different.

      In fact, I can see the Pu(s) converging even more next year, such that going into 2021 we might have 3 and perhaps even the fourth Pu of Renault so close that it will come down to which team nails their chassis. Of course we know too that the marriage between chassis and Pu is crucial, so I think it will come down to best chassis but also best chassis/Pu marriage and integration. 2021 is going to be a tough one to call in terms of performance, or of one team dominating, since the emphasis for 2021 onward is more on the driver, with cars and teams theoretically battling closer than they have in ages.

      All this to say if I’m LH or Max I’m staying with my existing team at least through 2021 to get the lay of land. There might be little incentive for them to leave if the cars are all pretty close anyway. If it is more about the driver, the driver is better off at home where they are engrained.

  10. If said Ferrari team were anything like they were this year, Mercedes has got nothing to worry about.

  11. If Lewis decides to go to Ferrari will it be simply to fulfill a dream or does he expect to be the number one driver alongside Leclerc?

  12. I supposed it would be difficult to say no if Ferrari throws a ridiculous amount of money at you.

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