Toto Wolff says Mercedes needs to consider Sebastian Vettel

© Wolfgang Wilhelm for Daimler AG

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff says Mercedes needs to “think about” hiring Sebastian Vettel, as unforeseen events could happen.

Ever since Ferrari announced that Sebastian Vettel would not be continuing with the team beyond 2020, the media has been speculating about the possibility of him going to Mercedes. During a recent media conference Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff was asked about this possibility.

“We were quite surprised with the early movements because you need to start the season with a driver that you know you’re going to lose,” Wolff said.

“It’s very tricky to develop a car without having that driver be part of it, and every single driver needs to be a team player as well, and that becomes second priority in my opinion for the relevant guy. For us we want to take our time.

“Our priority lies on the Mercedes drivers, Valtteri and Lewis, and then obviously George [Russell, Mercedes’ junior driver] and the Williams situation we’re looking at with interest.

“Beyond that you do not discount any driver. This is why I said I don’t want to discount Sebastian as a four-time world champion, because who knows what happens in the next months?

“If I had told you in January that we would not have any racing in the first half of the year nobody would have believed it. So in that respect we are just keeping our options open at this stage.”

When pressed by the media to reveal if he was just saying this out of respect for Vettel, the Austrian was adamant this was not the case.

“First of all, it’s not lip service. I think we owe it to a four-time world champion not to come out and say straight away ‘No.’ You need to think about it.

“On the other side we have a fantastic line-up, and I’m happy with both our pilots, and George.

“But you never know. One of them may decide that he doesn’t want to go racing any more, and suddenly you have a vacant spot.

“And this is why I don’t want to come out in June and say, ‘No chance, Sebastian is not racing for us.’ First of all I wouldn’t do that to him as a driver, to be that blunt, and on the other side I’ve seen black swans appearing when nobody expected.

Wolff went on to recount Nico Rosberg’s surprise retirement after winning the 2016 F1 championship, which left Mercedes without a clear replacement.

“Remember Nico Rosberg. In that respect we’re just keeping our options open, but of course concentrating our discussions with our current drivers.”

The Austrian then clarified Lewis Hamilton’s contract status. The Briton’s current deal with Mercedes lasts until the end of the year.

“We didn’t see each other lockdown, but we were in regular contact. But we didn’t work on any agreement. Between us there is a lot of trust.

“We have been together for a long time, and never in these years together we had to take the contract out and actually read what was written in there, because it comes so naturally.

“And therefore once racing resumes we’re going to spend some time together, dig the contract out of the cupboard, look at the timings and the numbers and the rights and hopefully have something pretty soon,” concluded Wolff.

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