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Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes future 'thrown into doubt'

Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes future 'thrown into doubt'
© Reuters
The Mercedes boss has revealed he could step back from Formula One at the end of the year.

Lewis Hamilton's future at Mercedes has been thrown into fresh doubt after his boss Toto Wolff revealed he could step back from Formula One at the end of the year.

Hamilton's £40million-a-season contract is up for renewal in five months, and the world champion is on the record as saying his plans hinge on team principal Wolff's movements.

Like Hamilton, Wolff, who has presided over Mercedes' unrivalled and remarkable six consecutive driver and team championships, is out of contract at the end of the campaign.

Toto Wolff File photo
Toto Wolff is out of contract at the end of the season (PA)

The Austrian, 47, said discussions over a new deal with Ola Kallenius, chairman of Mercedes' parent company Daimler, are ongoing and positive.

Speaking ahead of Sunday's Spanish Grand Prix, Wolff said: "Lewis staying is the best thing he can do and what he wants to do.

"He has the possibility of achieving great success, winning more races and hopefully championships and it is flattering that he says that his future is dependent on what I do. But he doesn't need me. He has a great team there that will always support him.

"I don't want to spin that I am leaving, that is not the case. I am in a moment of reflection where F1 is heading to, what is happening with Covid and for personal reasons, too.

"My wife Susie [Wolff] is in a good place running a Formula E team but that means she is away a lot. I have been to God knows how many Formula One races, something like 120 in the last eight years.

"I really have enjoyed many years in Formula One in my role as team principal. I am happy that my relationship with Ola is as good as it can be and we speak almost every day and there are many factors that make me want to stay in Formula One.

"On the other side, it takes its toll and this plays into my consideration. It doesn't mean I will not be around as a team principal or in another role but it is just that I am thinking about it. I never want to be in a situation where you go from very good to good."

Hamilton, who holds a 30-point championship lead over Red Bull's Max Verstappen in his bid for a record-equalling seventh world championship, looks likely to extend his stay with Mercedes. Indeed, he said on the eve of last month's British Grand Prix that he could race on for another three years.

British Grand Prix – Race – Silverstone
Wolff's comments might provide Lewis Hamilton with food for thought (PA)

But Wolff's comments might provide the Briton, who said he is yet to open formal discussions with Mercedes over a new deal, with food for thought.

The 35-year-old finished fastest in practice for the sixth round of the championship at Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya as his Mercedes team continued to flex their muscles.

Verstappen ended Mercedes' run of dominance at last weekend's 70th Anniversary Grand Prix at Silverstone after taking advantage of Hamilton's tyre struggles with a fine drive to victory.

But Hamilton finished eight tenths ahead of the Red Bull driver here, indicating that the six-time world champion will be favourite to return to the top step of the podium on Sunday.

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Bernie Ecclestone pictured on September 27, 2019
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