The Mercedes team principal, Toto Wolff, insists he has no fear that Lewis Hamilton will leave the team after they made a shocking start to the new Formula One season.
His team were solidly beaten at the season opener in Bahrain, with Hamilton and George Russell managing only fifth and seventh. Their car was the fourth fastest, solidly behind the Red Bull, Ferrari and Aston Martin, a team that use a Mercedes engine, gearbox and suspension.
After an equally trying campaign last year and with Hamilton’s Mercedes contract up at the end of this season, Wolff was adamant the team would do everything to keep the seven‑times champion on board.
“It would be much too easy to lose a driver and then throw in the towel, and we are not doing that,” he said. “On the contrary we need to really dig deep, deeper than we have ever done and provide both drivers with a car they can actually fight with.
“Lewis is an integral part of the team, picking the team up and we are speaking together. I don’t think that is going to change because we had another start that was really bad. We have won eight constructors’ championships and six driver championships with him, that relationship holds.”
Hamilton has also recently expressed his commitment to continuing with Mercedes, although that was before the Bahrain GP exposed just how far off the pace the team are.
The race at the Sakhir circuit was won in dominant fashion by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, with his teammate Sergio Pérez in second, and Mercedes were never in the mix. Fernando Alonso, who was third for Aston Martin, came back after losing places and easily passed both Hamilton and Russell, who were powerless to resist the superior pace of the Aston.
On Saturday after qualifying, Wolff had conceded the team had made a mistake in sticking with the concept of last year’s car this season and their performance in Bahrain had decided then on immediately investigating replacing it with a new design.
“I am not bullshitting myself and I am not bullshitting you,” he said. “As a matter of fact the gap is very big and in order to catch up we need to make big steps. The drivers are fully aware. Everyone is aware this is not a matter of finding three-tenths and polishing the car up. This is a matter of serious performance that we need to find to put us back into a situation to fight for race wins and the championship.”