‘Toto Wolff will bang heads together’ as Mercedes plot to retain Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton’s contract expires at the end of the 2023 season, with the seven-time world champion yet to sign an extension.

Prior to the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Mercedes announced a reshuffle at its home base, with James Allison returning as the team’s technical director and Mike Elliott taking over as chief technical officer.

The moves follow criticism from Lewis Hamilton over the design of the W14 and the direction Mercedes took in its development before the start of the season.

Hamilton publicly bashed the car’s design, demanding accountability from those responsible, following a poor showing in Bahrain, revealing that he felt like he wasn’t listened by the engineers. 

Both Hamilton and his teammate George Russell have welcomed the changes, with former Formula 1 world champion Damon Hill suggesting that the move could be a ploy by Mercedes to retain the seven-time world champion after this season. 

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Hamilton’s contract will expire at the end of the 2023 season and, despite his claims that he wishes to remain at the team, there is no sign of him reaching a deal over an extension.

“It was probably a combination. It was abundantly clear that Mercedes was not the car of the previous era,” Hill said in Azerbaijan. 

“The car looks different to other cars, notably the Red Bull or the Ferrari.

“The question was raised in 2022 – is it the right way to go? 2023 comes around, still no race-winning car. It didn’t Lewis to point it out. But Lewis was vocal. He was echoing what everyone was feeling and saying.

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“Toto Wolff will bang heads together and say: ‘We need to make changes’. I think Lewis can probably wait a little bit longer until he feels confident.

“I can’t imagine that Mercedes are pressuring him. They know that they’ve got things to work out. They have made some changes to their design structure, with James Allison coming back, and Mike Elliott overseeing the whole group. A bit of shuffling around.

“You could read that as a [sign] to Lewis that they are going to make changes at Mercedes, so they have a competitive car going forwards.”

It is yet to be seen whether this will convince Hamilton to remain at the Silver Arrows, which delivered six of his Drivers’ Championships. 

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Amid the prolonged contract negotiations, Hamilton has been linked with a possible move to Ferrari, with speculation over a possible drivers swap with Charles Leclerc.

The Monegasque has been public in his frustration at the Italian team, while it’s been suggested that Hamilton should join Ferrari to complete his illustrious career.

Neither driver did much to dampen speculation ahead of the first sprint weekend in Baku, with Leclerc simply claiming nothing was being discussed “at the moment” and Hamilton admitting it’s only natural for team principal Toto Wolff to explore his options.