F1: George Russell hikes during the off-season
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Mercedes are reportedly interested in signing George Russell at the end of the season if Lewis Hamilton leaves at the end of his contract, and Toto Wolff has already dropped a big hint over the Silver Arrows’ plans.
Hamilton finally put pen to paper on a new contract on Monday after a lengthy negotiation.
The seven-time Drivers’ Champion is going for his eighth title this year, in what could be his final year in the sport.
Hamilton became a free agent at the end of last year, and seemed destined to extend immediately, as it was never expected that he’d leave for a different team.
But in a surprise move, when he signed a new contract he only signed one for an extra year, leaving the door open to a potential exit at the end of the upcoming season.
If Hamilton is to leave, it seems likely that Mercedes will move for Williams driver Russell.
The young Englishman drove for Mercedes at the Bahrain Grand Prix and looked impressive.
He was on the way to a shock win having stepped into Hamilton’s car, and was leading until the 64th lap before suffering a puncture and being forced to withdraw.
But despite not finishing the race, he impressed Mercedes chiefs and seems destined to drive for the team in the future.
Speaking in an official team statement after Mercedes announced Hamilton’s new contract, team principal Wolff dropped a huge hint over bringing in Russell.
He said: “The young drivers are the future and therefore we need to consider how we want to set ourselves up for the years beyond.”
That quote is important because Mercedes currently have the oldest driver line-up in the entire grid.
Hamilton, 36, and Valtteri Bottas, who will be 32 mid-way through the season, are both gradually nearing the end of their careers.
And Wolff’s comments suggest Mercedes will look to bring in 22-year-old Williams at the end of the season.
Russell will become a free agent at the same time as Hamilton will, and Bottas is also out of contract.
For that reason, Mercedes will potentially have three drivers in their sights with two open spots on the team.
It seems Wolff and the rest of the team are definitely planning for the future despite having Hamilton and Bottas both tied down to contracts for the upcoming season.
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