As Lewis Hamilton’s split with his long-time companion and assistant Angela Cullen became clear, Toto Wolff admitted for the first time that the seven time world champion could also leave Mercedes.
That is despite the fact that, when pressed on the status of contract negotiations with the 38-year-old Briton, he said he is “absolutely confident” a deal will ultimately be done.
However, the first real ‘silly season’ rumours for 2023 are that Hamilton might be eyeing a disgruntled Charles Leclerc’s Mercedes race seat.
“Well, I have no idea what is being said in the silly season,” Mercedes team boss Wolff insists.
“We’re talking when we want to do it but we just need to change some terms – the dates basically.”
However, Hamilton recently accused Mercedes’ engineers and management of “not listening to me” when he told them the basic concept of the 2022 car needed to change this year.
Wolff admits the team made a fundamental mistake with the new car, but he also said simply throwing away the current chassis is not possible.
“I think it’s out of the question to change the chassis,” he said in Saudi Arabia. “There simply is not enough budget in the cost cap.
“But changing the way the aerodynamics work and bodywork is perfectly within the scope.”
But if Mercedes cannot demonstrate to Hamilton that it can put a much more competitive car at his disposal in the medium-term future, it is possible a new contract ultimately will not be signed.
“I don’t think Lewis will leave Mercedes,” Wolff insists. “He’s at the stage of a career where we trust each other, we have formed the great bond among each other and we have no reason to doubt each other, even though this is a difficult spell.
“As a driver, nevertheless, if he wants to win another championship, he needs to make sure that he has the car. And if we cannot demonstrate that we’re able to give him a car in the next couple of years, then he needs to look everywhere.
“I don’t think he’s doing it at that stage, but I will have no gripe if that happens in a year or two,” the Austrian added.