Mercedes boss Toto Wolff speaks to Ted Kravitz on all manner of hot topics in Formula 1 right now, from Lewis Hamilton’s future, to his post-Imola crash conversations with George Russell, and his take on Red Bull’s engine project.
Toto Wolff is confident Lewis Hamilton will remain in Formula 1 with Mercedes into 2022, while he has also suggested that Red Bull’s new engine project could still end up involving Porsche and the Volkswagen Group in future.
Answering questions on a number of key current talking points in F1 in an interview with Sky Sports F1 at the Portuguese GP, which can be viewed in full above, Wolff was first asked about the future of his star driver after Hamilton spoke positively on Thursday about extending his career beyond the expiry of his current one-year deal.
The seven-time world champion got his first taste of next year’s brand-new 18-inch tyres in Pirelli testing at Imola last week and, in the press conference on the opening day at Portimao, Hamilton told media: “I plan to be here next year.”
Wolff said that Hamilton’s public comments reflected “what we have already discussed in private” and “I’m happy about that”.
“Yes, there is no reason why not,” said Wolff when asked if Hamilton would still be in a Mercedes in 2022.
“It’s the best place to be. He has been with us a long time and I think as long as we can provide the outlook for a competitive package, I see no reason why we shouldn’t be together and continue the marriage.”
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Wolff has already said previously that they will seek to conclude contract negotiations far earlier than last time around, when Hamilton’s short renewal was not signed until February of this year just weeks before pre-season testing began.
Valtteri Bottas, Hamilton’s team-mate since 2017, is also out of contract at the end of the year, as is Mercedes-backed George Russell at Williams.
Wolff makes Red Bull engine prediction | Horner responds
Red Bull chief Christian Horner discusses his team’s new engine division and responds to Mercedes counterpart Toto Wolff’s claim that it could involve the VW Group in future.
The Mercedes team principal also gave his take on Red Bull after their title rivals announced last week that they had signed long-time Mercedes man Ben Hodgkinson to become technical director of their under-construction powertrains division.
“First of all, I really enjoyed working with Ben,” said Wolff. “He’s a good personality and he’s a good engineer. He was chief of engineering on the mechanical side, which is an important part of the job.
“I think there will be maybe a few others that will join this exciting journey.”
Red Bull are taking over the running of Honda’s power units at the end of this season when their Japanese suppliers leave F1 – and have said they are pushing ahead with plans to produce their own engine when the regulations are overhauled for 2025.
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Wolff believes the Milton Keynes-based outfit are leaving their options open about whether they ultimately go it alone from 2025 or partner with a manufacturer, naming the Volkswagen Group – whose brands include Porsche and Audi – as the likely option if Red Bull took the latter approach.
“Honestly for me we can see what the strategy is and it’s not stupid. Red Bull is going dual track,” claimed Wolff.
“They are on one side keen on doing their own power unit, but it’s no secret that the Volkswagen Group with their two brands is looking at Formula 1 and has been part of the discussion. So they can at any moment decide whether they want to stick to their own power unit or go with a top manufacturer.
“On the other side, the arrangement that they have on the IP side with Honda really makes sense. They are taking over the IP from Honda and obviously developing the new power unit into 2025. It could stay within Red Bull power units or it go to Porsche-Audi. So overall it makes sense what they do.”
The Mercedes boss added on VW’s chances of an F1 entry: “I think it’s very early stages. They’ve expressed an interest, and that was public, and in that respect, I would very much hope that they enter the sport.
“The Volkswagen Group has a historic connection with Red Bull all over the platforms and it’s just logical that they are going to look at a relationship with Red Bull, and if they can utilise the Honda IP and the learning there from whatever Volkswagen power unit would enter.
“And I’m saying would because I have no idea, and I shouldn’t, it is none of my business. But they will benefit from all these relationships and intellectual property carried forward.”
When Wolff’s comments were put to him by Sky F1 about a possible VW link-up, Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said: “Toto always likes to think he knows what’s going on in other people’s business. Perhaps he needs to think about his own.”
Horner added: “We’re building a fantastic facility and we’ve got some great talent coming into the facility. It’s going to be on campus, it’s going to be integrated fully with the chassis side of the business – we’ll be the only team other than Ferrari to have that.
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“And, of course, what the engine’s called is another matter. At the moment there’s no discussions in place, it’s focused on being a Red Bull engine. But, of course, that engine could be called anything in the future.
“But to have it integrated fully into Milton Keynes is tremendously exciting.”
Wolff proud of Mercedes work to improve diversity
Meanwhile, Wolff also spoke about the announcement that the world champions had partnered with the Association for Black and Minority Ethnic Engineers UK (AFBE-UK) to help increase accessibility to careers in engineering.
The tie-up is the latest step Mercedes are taking as part of their Accelerate 25 programme, which has the target of ensuring at least 25 per cent of all new employees at the team come from under-represented groups in each year up to and including 2025.
“I’m very proud of what the team has done in that respect,” said Wolff on Mercedes’ diversity and inclusion programme.
“We are really pushing flat out to increase the diversity in the team because we also think it brings performance.”