Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton put the brakes on contract talks to focus on title battle
The fight for the championship reached new levels of intensity – and acrimony – during the Belgian GP after a collision between the Briton and his team-mate Nico Rosberg
formula one correspondent
Thursday 28 August 2014
As the summer movements in the driver market revolve around McLaren’s efforts to attract either Fernando Alonso or Sebastian Vettel into the Woking fold, Mercedes bosses have confirmed that they will not enter into any talks with Lewis Hamilton about a new contract for 2016 until his increasingly fraught battle for the 2014 World Championship has been resolved.
The team’s chief, Toto Wolff, confirmed after the British Grand Prix in July that team-mate and rival Nico Rosberg had concluded a deal that will take him to 2016 as his contract was extended. But neither Wolff nor Hamilton believe it necessary right now to take their focus off the title fight, which reached new levels of intensity – and acrimony – after the collision between the two Mercedes drivers at Spa-Francorchamps last Sunday.
There is no question that Mercedes are eager to retain Hamilton, despite the open warfare with Rosberg, as they believe that they currently have the strongest driver line-up. But team and driver have also reached an agreement not to enter into any talks with other parties until they have discussed their future together. Non-executive director Niki Lauda vehemently denied rumours in Hungary to the effect that Mercedes were making a play for Vettel, and said: “Absolute bullshit. I can tell you that nobody from this team has spoken with him. Why would we want to do that? We already have the two best drivers in our team. Why would we want to change that?”
Hamilton’s current contract does not expire until the end of 2015, hence both parties deciding to focus on the present rather than on something that will not require serious attention for at least another 12 months.
Toto Wolff insists his team want to keep Lewis Hamilton and that Hamilton wants to stay (EPA)
“We’ve been talking to one another daily,” Wolff confirmed. “But at this stage things are very intense and you have to stay concentrated on the season. One thing is for sure, we are not going to talk to anybody else before having a very clear situation about how we can continue to work with Lewis.
“This is what we have said to each other, that we have no interest in having any other conversation with any other driver. We are not having any, and Lewis is not having any discussion with any other team, so this is why we trust each other. We feel at the moment we need to be concentrated on the championship and not get involved in contractual discussions – intense discussions – because it is something which is one and a half years in front of us.”
Mercedes are holding a family day at their base in Brackley, Northamptonshire, this weekend, that both Hamilton and Rosberg are expected to attend. Wolff, and executive technical director Paddy Lowe, are expected to hold further talks with them on Friday in order to resolve some of the issues which arose between them following the contact on the second lap of the Belgian GP which enabled Rosberg to extend his World Championship points lead over Hamilton to 29.
Meanwhile, Hamilton’s former team-mate Jenson Button is looking increasingly forlorn, having been made well aware that his security at McLaren could depend on Alonso and Vettel deciding to stay where they are. Both have contracts, with Ferrari and Red Bull respectively, that run until the end of 2015, but McLaren are determined to secure one or other of them, if not for next season then for 2016, to spearhead their new challenge with Honda power.
Button wants to continue racing in 2015, but the recent performances of rookie team-mate Kevin Magnussen have presented McLaren with the possible problem of which of them to drop if Alonso or Vettel were to accept their “name your price” offers. Retirement may be looming for the 34-year-old Briton.
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