Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has confirmed he will resume Formula 1 contract negotiations with Lewis Hamilton at the start of this season and remains confident of retaining the defending world champion.

At the end of 2019 rumours swirled linking Hamilton to a potential Ferrari switch as he plots out the final stages of his F1 career.

Since then Ferrari has tied down Charles Leclerc to a new long-term deal, while Red Bull has completed a similar agreement with Max Verstappen, with the F1 driver market gaining early momentum over the winter.

Until Hamilton confirms his F1 future the six-time world champion will naturally be the hottest property with his current £40 million-a-year deal expiring at the end of 2020.

Mercedes boss Wolff says Hamilton staying at the reigning F1 world champions is the “obvious” choice for both parties but negotiations haven’t progressed since the end of last year.

“I think it is the obvious pairing going forward. We want the fastest man in the car and I guess Lewis will want to be in the fastest car so there is an obvious mutual outcome,” Wolff explained speaking at the Mercedes 2020 F1 livery reveal.

“We travel around the world almost 10 months of the year and get on each other’s nerves every other weekend and what we do over the winter is leave each other in peace.

“The last conversation I had with him was in the evening before the Christmas party, where we had a nice chat and said we would continue our discussion on his future once he is back from America and we start the season.”

Wolff is confident Mercedes can provide Hamilton with everything he requires as he gets closer to becoming F1’s most successful driver.

The Brit has moved to just one world title behind seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher at the top of the all-time list, while he is seven Grand Prix wins behind the German for most victories. Hamilton already holds the most pole positions record currently with 88 poles.

“I have great belief in the team to attract the best drivers and at the moment Lewis has proven he is the best current driver with his six titles,” Wolff added. “In the medium and long-term we hope we can continue to provide technology to the best driver and attract them.”

INEOS chairman Sir Jim Ratcliffe, fresh from agreeing a new principal partnership with Mercedes, says he’s a huge admirer of Hamilton and hopes he stays at the German manufacturer beyond the end of this season.

“I’ve only ever met Lewis and his dog for five minutes so I don’t know him but I am a great admirer,” Ratcliffe said. “I think he is one of the greatest driver to ever stride on the earth. He is an extremely talented man but in terms of the future that decision is down to Toto and not me.”

Wolff also hinted his own future as Mercedes team principal will also be confirmed later this season once private negotiations are completed.

“I’m the managing partner in the team and I have to pinch myself to be in the team,” Wolff said when asked by Crash.net. “We are planning our long-term strategy with Daimler and with Jim coming in his partnership is another building block. So, our sails are set for the future.

“But like Lewis, we are still discussing it so I will not give a date.”

Mercedes will unveil its 2020 F1 car, the W11, with its new livery on February 14 with both Hamilton and teammate Valtteri Bottas expected to take part in a shakedown run at Silverstone.

 

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