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'We're not finished': Wolff believes Hamilton will remain in F1 at Mercedes

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The Mercedes team principal, Toto Wolff, has said he believes Lewis Hamilton is far from finished with Formula One after the world champion suggested he is considering ending his career. Hamilton won the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at Imola on Sunday but has yet to renew his contract with Mercedes and after the race said there there were no guarantees he would continue next year.

With a commanding win at the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari track, his ninth this season from 13 races, Hamilton has all but sealed his seventh F1 title, which will equal Michael Schumacher’s record tally of championships. The 35-year-old is in the form of his life and has previously suggested he could race on for another three years. However, his contract with Mercedes ends this season and despite repeated statements from the British driver and the team that they expected a new deal to be done in a straightforward fashion, none has yet been concluded. “I don’t even know if I’m going to be here next year,” Hamilton pointedly remarked at Imola.

Hamilton and Wolff both joined Mercedes in 2013 since which they have enjoyed remarkable success. Mercedes clinched their seventh consecutive constructors’ championship on Sunday and Hamilton has taken five of his six titles with the team. The pair have developed a very close relationship during this time but Wolff also confirmed at Imola that he was intending to step back from his team principal role to take on a different position at the team.

Wolff is ready to conclude a deal for his new role at Mercedes and believes he and Hamilton will both continue with the team. “I think we go together in a way,” he said. “We have a symbiosis and obviously it’s important where our heart is and mindset is for next year. I’m a very proud co-owner with Mercedes and I’m not going to go anywhere.

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We want to continue this journey, we are not finished. Lewis and I and all the team, we’re not finished.”

Wolff has said that he wants to ensure both titles are sealed before he and Hamilton sit down to discuss a new contract. Hamilton has an 85-point lead over his teammate Valtteri Bottas; if he is 78 points in front after the next round in Turkey he will take the drivers’ championship. A win or merely finishing in front of the Finn will suffice.

Wolff reiterated his belief that with the titles secure he was confident a deal would be struck. “I was concentrated on bringing these championships home and it does not feel right to spend days with lawyers and people when I’m so focused on what’s happening on track,” he said. “There will be a moment when the drivers’ championship is going to be decided, to sit down and we have a few months before the first race [of the 2021 season] happens in Australia.”

Mercedes have enjoyed almost complete dominance this season, winning 11 of 13 races. With the regulations frozen for next year they can expect to rule again and it seems highly unlikely Hamilton would walk away from the chance to surpass Schumacher’s championship record. Certainly he does not lack for motivation and after victory at Imola feels he is only improving.

“I definitely think these last couple of years I’ve been able to really step it up, quite big strides, in positive areas and I think that’s come with age,” he said. “I couldn’t have done it without these great people working behind me who really provide us with the solid foundation of a reliable car, a fast car, to do what we’ve done, so it’s pretty awesome.”

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