Lewis Hamilton, now 36, is on the eve of his ninth season in the Mercedes ranks. In the previous eight years he won six world titles, while Mercedes as a team won seven. Next year, after a one-year contract extension, he will be looking for title number eight.
But whether he will still be a Mercedes driver in 2022 after that possible eighth title remains to be seen. Toto Wolff understands only too well that his star driver's sell-by date is coming into view and that the youngsters are eager to take over the seat from the multiple champion.
Wolff does not want to speak for Hamilton. "He has to decide for himself how he sees his future. Therefore I am not going to say for him how he sees it. At the same time, as a team we have to think for the long term about our driver and what we are going to do with him," he told RacingNews365 and others.
In 2021, the full focus will be on the current drivers in any case: "This year we are fully loyal to Valtteri [Bottas] and Lewis, we will give 100% for that in 2021. We support them with everything we have. During the year we will start looking at the lineup for 2022 and beyond and figure out what we want to do with that."
And Wolff sees a role in that for the young talented drivers, without saying which ones. "First we will sit down with Valtteri and Lewis, out of respect for our values, loyalty and integrity towards them. On the other hand, we know that the young drivers are the future and therefore we really need to start thinking carefully about how we will profile ourselves in 2022 and the years after," the Austrian team boss said.