When news broke that Mercedes had only given Lewis Hamilton a one-year contract extension, rumors about the future of the team’s two seats started going around. McLaren’s Zak Brown waded into the discussion by revealing what his driver lineup for 2022 would be if he were in Mercedes’ shoes. However, team principal Toto Wolff has quashed those claims by Brown.
McLaren CEO Zak Brown, in the lead-up to the season-opener at Bahrain, predicted a highly exciting lineup for Mercedes in 2022. He predicted a tandem of George Russell–Max Verstappen. This got the pulses running for F1 fans everywhere, especially coming from someone within the F1 paddock.
In an interview (translated via Google), Toto Wolff addressed the unconfirmed rumors of Hamilton not speaking to Russell, following his incredible performance as Hamilton’s replacement for the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix.
The Austrian said, “I’m hearing this for the first time. But the condition of my pilots is the least of my worries. But I can imagine that because the competition between the two is very strong. The big ones feel when a good guy is coming. And George is the next generation.”
The Austrian also went on to dismiss claims by Brown over a Russell-Verstappen combo for the 2022 season. He said, “Brown is like Christian Horner. They just spread sh*t. I think Zak wanted to give Christian one with it. I don’t care.”
Even though Hamilton pulled off a stunning win at the season-opener at Bahrain, the German team will know that they were lucky to come away with a win from there. Their bold pit stop strategy could very well have backfired had they not gotten a little help from the stewards.
So, Mercedes will arrive at Imola from a relative position of strength and would have given them some breathing room. They will also be glad with the three week break which ensued between the race in Bahrain and the next one in Imola. This would have given them some time to try and recover from the pace deficit they suffered to Red Bull throughout the opening weekend.
The team also realizes that the next two tracks at Imola and Portimao may not suit their style of car and may approach those weekends pragmatically. They will look to get as many points as they possibly can and take advantage of any mishaps on Red Bull’s part. So, the 2021 season will be very fascinating to watch for this battle alone.