F1: Lewis Hamilton goes cross-country skiing
Lewis Hamilton will not be given the option to choose his Mercedes team-mate in 2022, according to reports. The seven-time world champion has been at the centre of speculation regarding his F1 future in recent months, with the Silver Arrows yet to announce that he has agreed new terms after his previous contract expired at the end of last season.
Despite a lack of official confirmation, Hamilton is widely expected to renew his relationship with Mercedes as he aims to secure an unprecedented eighth world title.
A deal is believed by many to have already been signed and sealed, with Mercedes chief Toto Wolff highly unlikely to risk losing the sport’s greatest driver at such short notice.
Recent reports have suggested that Hamilton will benefit from a new clause allowing him to decide his team-mate for next year.
Red Bull star Max Verstappen is the 36-year-old’s biggest threat on track, with Mercedes having been perpetually linked with a move for his services over the years.
This has led to Hamilton’s purported contract addition being dubbed the ‘Verstappen clause’ by many outlets.
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However, it has emerged that the Stevenage-born driver will receive no such option, with the clause dismissed as ‘pure invention’ by Motorsport.com.
The report claims that Williams star and Mercedes junior driver George Russell is primed and ready to take over from Valtteri Bottas, or even Hamilton himself, in the near future, ending any hopes of Verstappen linking up with the Silver Arrows.
Hamilton is said to be well aware of his team’s plans for the youngster, who impressed when he was drafted in to replace the defending world champion at last year’s Sakhir Grand Prix.
Russell overtook temporary team-mate Bottas on the first lap and led for much of the race, but was cruelly denied the chance to fight for a maiden victory through no fault of his own after a pit-stop calamity and an unfortunate slow puncture.
Wolff is a huge fan of Russell, who famously convinced the German of his qualities with a PowerPoint presentation before he was signed to the team’s young driver programme.
However, despite the Williams man’s seemingly inevitable pathway to a Mercedes seat, Wolff has claimed that he would like to see the youngster cut out his mistakes in order to earn his chance at the top.
“Winning Formula 1 championships is about making the least amount of mistakes,” the Mercedes boss told Motorsport.com. “And that only comes with routine and experience.
“Mercedes expects these kind of sustainable performance levels. And that’s why you need to give young drivers time.
“Because as exuberant as they may be perceived after the performance that we’ve seen [at the Sakhir GP] from George, at the same time, young drivers will be criticised, and criticised quickly, when they make mistakes in such a high pressure environment like a top team.
“That’s why making experiences like in Imola [where Russell crashed behind the safety car] and the learnings from that are very important to form a driver that can perform at a sustainable high level.”
Russell has established himself as one of F1’s brightest talents during his short career to date.
He has a remarkable record of dominating his Williams team-mates, with Nicholas Latifi having been well and truly second best last year after Robert Kubica struggled to lay a glove on Russell in 2019.
The British hopeful’s contract at Williams is set to expire at the end of the upcoming season, potentially opening the door for a Mercedes switch in 2022.
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