Toto Wolff will ‘give 100%’ to keep Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes

• Team principal and world champion to meet for talks
• Hamilton’s £40m-a-year deal runs out in November

Toto Wolff has said his priority is to ensure Lewis Hamilton signs a new contract with Mercedes. They will meet for talks at the team’s base in Brackley before the 2020 race car is officially launched on Friday.

The Mercedes team principal does not expect money to be a sticking point with Hamilton, whose deal reportedly worth £40m a year runs until the end of this season. The 35-year-old has been with the team since 2013 during which time he has won five of his six world championships.

Hamilton has been linked with a move to Ferrari but an optimistic Wolff said: “I will give 100% to make sure we have the best lineup in 2021. Lewis is the No 1 priority.”

They have become friends since they both joined Mercedes in 2013 and Wolff is confident the relationship will continue.

“There are not many places around where Lewis could have the environment, the framework that would give him the best base for his ambition,” he said. “From the team’s perspective we have a trustful relationship and from a rational standpoint continuing for a while is what is most probable.”

Wolff admits there is always the chance Hamilton may choose to do the unexpected, as he did when he left McLaren for Mercedes at the end of 2012.

Negotiations are expected to be protracted but Mercedes regard Hamilton as a worthwhile investment. “You need to respect that a superstar at the peak of his ability and his career has a limited lifespan where he’s able to earn those kind of super amounts,” Wolff said. “But the reality is the money has in the past never been the sticking point; it was more about freedom time to follow up on his projects.”

The two have not met since December but Wolff feels no sense of urgency. “There is plenty of time to sit down,” he said. “I’m in no way stressed out at not having a signature on the dotted line because, if that is the case, it simply means we haven’t yet come to the conclusion of our discussion and I am optimistic we will.”

Wolff dismissed reports that the team’s parent company, Daimler, is considering leaving Formula One and said a five-year sponsorship deal with the petrochemicals company Ineos is a strong signal of an intent to stay in the sport.

Mercedes’ success has come at huge expense and Daimler said in January its earnings had halved in 2019 and it would need to cut more than 10,000 jobs in the next two years. The team have yet to confirm their participation in F1 beyond this season but Wolff was scathing about reports that Daimler’s board is to discuss pulling out of F1.

“I am always surprised there is some lunatic out there on a website and a complete nonsense story that was put straight the following day by the CEO of Daimler,” he said. “We as Daimler see the advantages it gives to us. Participating in F1 is one of the exercises that costs little in comparison to the billions in marketing value that is being created.”

The agreement between the teams, the FIA and the commercial rights holder, Liberty Media, expires at the end of this year. A new deal is being negotiated but no team have committed beyond this season.

Ineos are sponsors of the cycling team once known as Team Sky and Ineos Sailing UK, who are attempting to win the America’s Cup in 2021 with a boat designed and skippered by Ben Ainslie.

The link-up with Ineos reflects Mercedes’ commitment, according to Wolff. “We are in this for the long term. This partnership indicates our wish to continue our successful journey in F1.”

With Formula One expected to adopt a budget cap next season, Wolff is also confident the Mercedes racing team will run eventually at a profit.

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Giles Richards

The GuardianTramp

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