Mercedes: Why Hamilton, Verstappen line-up is unlikely

Wolff says there is no “opportunity” to sign Max, while Mercedes are also happy with their options; Plus, on Rosberg-Hamilton years…

By Matt Morlidge

Last Updated: 21/10/20 3:56pm

Toto Wolff has explained why there are currently no plans to pair Lewis Hamilton and a “loyal” Max Verstappen together as F1 team-mates, while also opening up on the “very difficult” Hamilton and Nico Rosberg years.

Hamilton and Verstappen, F1’s six-time world champion and young superstar, are undoubtedly the sport’s fastest and most valuable drivers but while a mega Mercedes link-up has been mooted over the years, it has never been close to becoming a reality.

Hamilton is currently partnered by Valtteri Bottas, who replaced Rosberg in 2017, while Verstappen is signed up with Red Bull until 2023.

Wolff, Mercedes’ team boss, says they are happy with Bottas, who unlike Hamilton has a deal in place for next season, as well as their junior driver options, while also insisting Verstappen is “bound to Red Bull”.

“Valtteri does a great job for us, and Lewis does a great job for us and they are still at the peak of their performance levels,” Wolff told F1’s official Beyond The Grid podcast. “Then we have juniors that are coming up that have been with us for many years and could be the future for us. So this is what we look at.

“And the situation around Max doesn’t provide any opportunity now. He’s bound to Red Bull, I respect his loyalty a lot and I think it’s important for Red Bull to have Max. There’s a lot of narrative around that and Red Bull picked him up from very early on when he joined Toro Rosso.

A special montage looking at how Michael Schumacher and now Lewis Hamilton each passed some of F1’s other legendary names to move the top of the all-time winners table

“The situation is what it is and it’s good for him and good for us.”

Hamilton is yet to commit his future to Mercedes, but is expected to sign a new contract with the team he joined in 2013.

Wolff on Rosberg-Hamilton, and ‘refreshing’ Bottas

Wolff also hinted that the smooth and drama-free relationship between Bottas and Hamilton was important to Mercedes after the tumultuous Rosberg-Hamilton pairing.

Rosberg and Hamilton quickly went from friends to fierce rivals upon Hamilton’s arrival at Mercedes, and a four-year partnership which included many on and off-track altercations ended when Rosberg retired from F1 after winning the 2016 title.

Speaking about that relationship, Wolff explained: “Some things between Nico and Lewis we will never understand, because it goes back many years from go-karting into junior formulas.

“How it all grew from camaraderie to rivalry to animosity is something we were spectators of, but the dynamic, the dynamic of what happened between them was very difficult to follow.

“They just fell out, pretty early on actually when I joined in 2013. Then it gets worse and worse and worse.”

He added that there was too much “negativity” at Mercedes, even when the team – which have six consecutive double world titles and are set for a seventh – were so successful.

“It was very difficult when you have that much negativity in the room,” he added. “There was a lot of negativity and that would drag the whole room down.

“We came to a point where we said, that’s just not feasible anymore, and we talked about it.

“But the animosity between the two drivers was still there, much beyond the point that Nico retired. That’s why it’s so refreshing that since Valtteri joined, we haven’t had any of that.”