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Hamilton: No guarantee I’ll stay in F1 next year

Lewis Hamilton has indicated that he still has doubts over whether to continue in Formula One next year amid ongoing indecision about the role of Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff beyond the end of this season.

Hamilton is on the verge of securing a record-equalling seventh world title, but he has yet to renew his contract with the dominant Mercedes F1 team.

It had been assumed a new contract would be a formality, with Hamilton previously saying he intends to stay at the team for multiple years, but after winning Sunday’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, he said there was “no guarantee” he would stay in F1.

When asked about Wolff’s changing role at the team and the potential for a successor, Hamilton stated he was still considering his own plans.

“Naturally, I feel great, I feel very strong and I feel like I could keep going for plenty of months,” he said. “But you mentioned about Toto and shelf life, so there are multiple things that do stay on my mind.

“I would like to be here next year, but there is no guarantee of that, for sure, and there is a lot that excites my about the ‘after’ life. Time will tell.”

When Hamilton’s comments were put to Wolff, the Mercedes boss played down the suggestion that Hamilton was genuinely considering walking away from F1.

“I guess if he were to decide to step out of Formula One, which I don’t think is going to happen and I hope is not going to happen, I think we are going to have a pretty frantic driver market out there!” he said. “But I think it’s the moment and the emotions, we are all happy but very tired also.

“It’s the same for me. I completely relate with his feeling, that you question yourself and you think about all the other things that matter. When you switch on the news in the morning and you switch it off in the evening, it is all about the struggles that we all face.

“We are here in our little happy place and we are trying to bring some entertainment into households, but then you are back in the more hard reality the next day. All of that is something that affects us and, in that respect, it’s normal for someone who is [feeling] apathetic to have these feelings.”

In an earlier answer to a question about Wolff’s future, Hamilton said he trusts a succession plan will be put in place.

“I think I understand and we have a lot of deep conversations, Toto and I, so I am very aware of where he is mentally and we share and carry a lot of the weight together, I think,” he said. “I’ve been here a long, long time, and I can definitely understand him wanting to pull back a little bit and wanting to give more time to his family and those things.

While Wolff has not made his plans for 2021 public, he said they had already been worked through internally. “With Mercedes and I, it is pretty much clear,” he added. “It is just down to putting pen on paper at the right moment. I was also concentrating on bringing these championships home, and it was not right to spend days with lawyers when I am so focused on what is happening on track.

“This is where Lewis and I are very similar. It just didn’t feel right to sit down before those championships are done. There will be a moment when the drivers’ championship is decided and we will have a few months before the first race happens in Australia.”

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