Mercedes hope to complete their contract talks and agree a new deal with Lewis Hamilton during the upcoming mini-breaks in the congested Formula One calendar, team chief Toto Wolff has revealed.
But, he told a news conference at Mugello, he does not have a date in mind when he hopes to announce a happy conclusion and confirmation that the six-time world champion has a new deal with the team.
The series leader said in July that he expected it to be a relatively straightforward process and “not a big effort” and he had no desire to move to another team.
Wolff supported this on Friday when he pointed out that the three ‘triple-headers’ this season – making for nine races in 11 weeks since the coronavirus-hit calendar began – had offered few opportunities for talks.
“This is a work in progress and I wouldn’t want to commit to a specific date,” said Wolff.
“We get on very well, but then when it comes down to the detail, you just need enough time to do that.
“With one race after the other, we don’t want to be distracted by contract talks. In between, with the larger gaps, like next week, we’re moving towards a satisfactory outcome, but I don’t know when it will be announced.”
After this weekend’s race, marking Ferrari’s 1000th Grand Prix, two Grands Prix in four weeks are programmed as separate events, a schedule that allows for some breathing space.
Wolff said the new deal with Hamilton would be signed before the end of 2020 because Mercedes “want to have certainty how we race next year.”
Hamilton has won five of his six drivers’ titles with Mercedes since 2013.
Wolff warned that nothing should be taken for granted, however, when he said: “We didn’t look at the contract for the last three years and never took it out of the drawer.
“Sometimes situations change and the environment changes and, therefore, this is a time where it’s another stint — another part of the journey that we want to go together. We’re just debating.”
Wolff said also that he felt it was “important for Formula One” that four-time champion Sebastian Vettel would remain in the sport when he leaves Ferrari for Aston Martin at the end of this year.
The Mercedes team boss is a shareholder at Aston Martin, whose brand replaces that of Racing Point next season for the Silverstone-based outfit.
“I have three shares of Aston Martin so from that perspective it’s great,” he said. “The German market is the second most important market.
“I think it’s great that Seb stays. He is the second-most successful driver on the grid – and it’s important for F1 to keep somebody like Sebastian in his prime years.”
As to his own future, he said he was still reflecting on his next decision.
“I want to stay with Mercedes,” he said. “I get on with Ola Källenius (Daimler board chairman) really brilliantly and I love the guys here and at Brixworth.
“They are just a close-knit group, but on the other side, I would never want to go from very good to good so this is something I am thinking about.”