Wolff has been repeatedly pressured by the media over the past week to put an end to the idea that Hamilton’s annoyance with the way the safety car is restarting at the Yas Marina would not be enough to see him turn the corner completely. back to F1.
The most categorical thing Wolff could say was, “I really hope Lewis will keep racing because he is the greatest rider of all time.”
Hamilton has not said anything in public since losing the world championship over F1 race director Michael Masi’s decision to break previous protocol at the Abu Dhabi GP and move the markers selected to speed up the restart of the safety car in the season finale.
The Mercedes driver skipped the FIA awards gala in Paris last Thursday, his absence being investigated by the governing body as a potential violation of F1 sporting regulations.
However, he appeared at the post-season celebration for Mercedes ‘eighth consecutive Constructors’ Championship at Brackley and Brixworth last Friday – addressing the staff as they also said goodbye to Valtteri Bottas. But nothing he said has been made public.
While rival Max Verstappen is hoping Hamilton has enough motivation and motivation to come back and fight for the eighth crown, there is no guarantee yet that will happen – leaving Mercedes with a potential headache if the unthinkable happens.
With all of the top drivers under contract for 2022, Hamilton’s absence from one of the best seats on the F1 grid at such an advanced stage would likely set off a remarkable silly mini-season.
If it was confirmed that Hamilton would not be returning, there’s a good chance Wolff’s cell phone will ring suddenly as retired and / or contracted Grand Prix drivers probe him.
Esteban Ocon, Alpine F1
Photo By: Jerry André / Motorsport images
Among those with recent experience who are not under contract until 2022, however, Kimi Raikkonen is unlikely to be very keen on jumping into F1 again. But Nico Hulkenberg would almost certainly be a fallback, even in the short term.
With the relatively young George Russell in one of their cars, Mercedes certainly wouldn’t want to risk going looking for someone by their side without a lot of experience – as their Formula E stars Nyck de Vries and Stoffel Vandoorne would be relatively easy to integrate. in necessary.
Instead, the higher probability would be that Mercedes would go for a known amount on the current grid that has experience and speed – which leaves it with two clear options.
The first could be to probe Alpine about exiting former young Mercedes driver Esteban Ocon from his contract and moving to Brackley.
The Frenchman had a very good season in 2022, winning his first race in Hungary, and is well known to Mercedes for having tested for the team several times. He was also his reserve in 2019.
A deal to move Ocon to Mercedes would also free up a place in Enstone that the team could instantly put in rookie Oscar Piastri. The Australian’s brilliant F2 campaign, which won him the title on his first attempt, shows he has all the talent to shine in F1.
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But on the Alpine side, he has invested heavily in Ocon, he understands how strong he can be, and his longer term future is likely to revolve more around him than Fernando Alonso, who will be out of contract. at the end of next year. .
The chances of an Ocon move therefore seem particularly low.
Valtteri Bottas tests an Alfa Romeo C39 mule car
Photo By: Zak Mauger / Motorsport images
Instead, the most obvious fix for Mercedes – and one that might draw all parties involved – might be for the team to return to the man they just said goodbye to.
Bottas signed a long-term contract to race for Alfa Romeo and made his track debut for the team in the Abu Dhabi post-season tests.
However, with his Mercedes experience greater than anyone else’s, and him being instantly able to fit in without needing to spend months getting up to speed, he would be the more logical choice if the team needed to find someone for the start. from 2022.
Of course, a deal would have to be struck with Alfa Romeo, but its team manager Fred Vasseur and Wolff are very good friends – they’ve even lived together for the last few years.
Alfa Romeo could be open to some form of financial settlement as a stopgap solution, and one of the perks the team would have in finding a replacement is that their 2021 driver Antonio Giovinazzi would be fairly straightforward to recover.
With Giovinazzi having a close connection to Ferrari, there would certainly be some fun in Maranello if the Italian had another shot at F1.
Of course, what makes sense in F1 doesn’t always happen, but in the shock scenario Hamilton is going through, Mercedes at least has a sane solution on its table that could certainly work to move on to at least 2022.
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W12
Photo By: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport images