Mercedes will decide between Valtteri Bottas and George Russell “during the summer,” according to team principal Toto Wolff.
Lewis Hamilton’s future was confirmed on Saturday morning with a two-year contract extension that keeps him with Mercedes until the end of 2023, and leaves attention turning to who will partner him. Bottas is out of contract at the end of this season and Wolff has regularly said it is a straight choice between the Finn and Russell, with a decision to be made in the coming months.
“I think today is about Lewis and having that contract out of the way,” Wolff said. “We always said we wanted to give it the next few races to gain more clarity, and also happy Valtteri’s racing in Austria in my opinion was really good and he needs to consolidate that.
“He’s a known factor, and in the same way we know the strengths and weaknesses of George. That decision is going to be made during the summer, first discussions with George and Valtteri and then hopefully we are sorted before the end of the season.
“With Lewis we were clear (for) a while that we wanted to continue, so that was obvious for us. Now we can look at the second seat — it’s between those two. And as I said we value them both for their strengths and for what they can contribute to the team.”
Although Hamilton has previously stated he sees no reason to replace Bottas, Wolff says he doesn’t expect the seven-time world champion to be particularly against a change if Mercedes does choose Russell.
“I think for Lewis it’s not important who sits in the other car, I think the sheer fact of having a competitor, a team and a driver that challenges him and challenges us is all the fun. And yeah, after seven years of success, difficult years with Ferrari where we had to stretch ourselves, very different challenges — bear in mind the regulation change for next year… I can tell you the ambiance and the mindset in the briefing room is so much fun like we haven’t had for many years.”