Sir Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas are both currently on one-year deals at Mercedes, and McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown believes the Silver Arrows will have an all-new “killer” driver line-up in 2022.
“I think you will see Max [Verstappen] and George [Russell] there in 2022,” Brown said this week, a few days ahead of the 2021 season getting underway in Bahrain.
“You have Max’s experience and youth, you have George’s youth. If I am Mercedes that is a pretty killer line-up for the next five years,” he added.
Brown also ruled out Hamilton returning to McLaren in 2022 due to the team, which the Brit won his maiden F1 Championship with in 2008, being “really happy” with its current driver pairing.
“Where we are today, no – because we are really happy with Daniel [Ricciardo] and Lando [Norris] and have them under long term contracts.
“If you brought Lewis back now it would be for a one or two year journey and we know we are not ready to compete for championships, so we need to set up a driver line-up that gets us to that position and that when we reach it they are ready.
“Daniel is ready now, of course. I don’t think the timing is right for Lewis,” he added.
Hamilton will chase after his eighth F1 Championship this year, but Mercedes appeared to be struggling in pre-season testing.
However, many in the paddock, including Red Bull ace Max Verstappen, believe that Mercedes were sandbagging and will have a competitive car this upcoming season.
Norbert Haug, formerly head of all Mercedes motorsport activity, also said this week that he believes the Silver Arrows were sandbagging in pre-season testing.
“When Toto says they drove the heaviest car of the whole winter test, I think they were sandbagging. Still, Red Bull Racing is looking very strong,” Haug said.
“It’s certainly the case that it didn’t go the way Mercedes would have liked. But you know what they say, right? A bad test means a good race day performance.
“Mercedes can also stumble from time to time, although the chances are very small I must say,” he added.