Ola Kallenius, the boss of Mercedes’ owner Daimler, wants George Russell as the team’s No 1 once driver once Lewis Hamilton eventually departs, per reports. Toto Wolff is said to be keen on recruiting Max Verstappen from Red Bull to race for the world champions in the future.
Mercedes finally announced that Hamilton had signed a new contract on Monday and his extension commits him to the Silver Arrows until the end of the 2021 season.
As a result, at the end of this year, Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas and George Russell all stand to be free agents ahead of the 2022 season.
Russell is the favourite to claim either of Hamilton or Bottas’ Mercedes seat for next year having impressed in his two seasons so far with Williams.
The 22-year-old Mercedes junior driver stepped in for Hamilton at the Sakhir Grand Prix and would surely have won the race if not for a team pitstop error and then a puncture.
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Hamilton’s new deal only being for a single year has led to speculation that the 36-year-old could end his Formula One career in 12 months’ time.
By then, Hamilton is likely to be the only eight-time world champion in F1 history and will be approaching 37 years of age, with only Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen (41) and Alpine’s Fernando Alonso (39) older than him on the grid.
That means Russell could well replace Hamilton for the Silver Arrows rather than race alongside his countryman.
But Motorsport.com claim that Mercedes F1 CEO and team principal Toto Wolff is eyeing Verstappen as the successor to Hamilton whenever the Briton calls it a day.
The 23-year-old Dutchman has won 10 races with Red Bull and finished on the podium in 11 of the 12 races he finished in 2020.
Were it not for mechanical issues, Verstappen may have usurped Mercedes’ Bottas to finish second in the final Drivers’ Championship standings.
Motorsport.com say however that Daimler chief Kallenius is a massive fan of Russell and will push for the young Briton to replace Hamilton.
After signing his new contract, Hamilton said: “I am excited to be heading into my ninth season with my Mercedes team-mates.
“Our team has achieved incredible things together and we look forward to building on our success even further, while continuously looking to improve, both on and off the track.
“I’m equally determined to continue the journey we started to make motorsport more diverse for future generations and I am grateful that Mercedes has been extremely supportive of my call to address this issue.
“I’m proud to say we are taking that effort further this year by launching a foundation dedicated to diversity and inclusion in the sport.