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Hamilton-Mercedes remains an “obvious pairing” says Wolff

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff considers Mercedes will always be able to attract the fastest drivers as long as it is producing the best car on the grid.

With testing for the new Formula One season about to get underway next week, Wolff is in the process of opening contract negotiations with Lewis Hamilton to keep the six-time world champion at the team beyond of his existing contract, which expires at the end of the year.

Hamilton has been at Mercedes since 2013, but a meeting with Ferrari president John Elkann last year led to speculation he might leave when new regulations are introduced in 2021.

At the final race of the 2019 season in Abu Dhabi, Hamilton said it would be “smart” to keep his options open, but refused to comment on the meeting with Elkann.

Since Abu Dhabi, Hamilton’s negotiating position appears to have been strengthened by Red Bull signing Max Verstappen until 2023 and Ferrari signing Charles Leclerc until 2024. Those two drivers — who are both more than ten years younger than Hamilton — would have been obvious replacements for Hamilton at Mercedes before they were tied down to long-term deals.

“Looking at Max and Charles, these guys will always try to be in the fastest cars,” he said at the unveiling of Mercedes’ 2020 livery. “Contracts are contracts, probably sometimes it is the details which are important, not the overhead line of how long a contract has been signed.

“Therefore, I see our duty in providing a car which is the quickest, and then we will not run out of talents who are eager to drive these cars.

Wolff revealed that he and Hamilton had determined to put contract talks on hold over the winter so that both sides could relax between the final race of 2019 and the first race of 2020. And he stays confident that Hamilton will extend his deal into 2021 in the belief that Mercedes will continue to have the fastest car.

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