“We have some options”: Wolff names two drivers, but not Verstappen

Mercedes will find both seats vacant at the end of the season, with both Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas yet to be offered a deal beyond 2022.

It appears like Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has already identified two drivers to potentially step in for the Silver Arrows at the end of the current campaign.

While Bottas was offered a deal last August, the fact that he finished 124 points behind Hamilton is sure to put pressure on him.

Hamilton himself penned a new one-year deal after prolonged contract negotiations. It is still unkown if he does indeed want to stay in the sport at the end of this season.

This season could see Hamilton win his eighth Formula 1 world championship, which is uncharted territory. The British driver currently sits tied with Michael Schumacher on seven titles.

Some have speculated that he will look at other options once he has achieved this landmark.

Read more: Report: Williams to break partnership with Mercedes in favour of Alpine F1

Max Verstappen has been marked as a potential replacement for Hamilton and it was believed that Toto Wolff sees him as the next poster boy of the team.

The pressure on Bottas is intense, especially after George Russell came in for Hamilton and displayed his ability at the Bahrain grand Prix. Hamilton was suffering from coronavirus at the time and was forced to miss the race.

Since that performance, support has greatly increased for the 23-year-old to be granted a chance by Mercedes.

For all the speculation, Wolff has given his opinion on the matter, citing Russell and Esteban Ocon as serious options for Mercedes to consider.

“Esteban [Ocon] is in the second year of a two-year contract with Renault and Alpine F1, and George [Russell] is with Williams this year,” Wolff told Sport Week.

“So we have some options for 2022, but until then our full support goes to Valtteri and Lewis. We will evaluate in the middle of the year whether there will be a change in 2022,” he said.

Initial discussions, however, are expected to take place between Mercedes and the current drivers.

“I think Lewis needs to decide what his future holds for him.

“That is why I wouldn’t want to comment on where Lewis stands and, on the other side, the team needs to decide long-term what we are going to do about drivers.

Read more: “Red Bull and Aston Martin could come up with better solution”: Wolff admits Mercedes dominance waning

“Valtteri and Lewis have our 100 per cent commitment for 2021. We will support them with everything we have and we will then look beyond this year and say ‘What is the line-up that we imagine in 2022 and onwards?’.

“Our first discussions are going to be with Valtteri and Lewis in respecting our values of loyalty and integrity.

“But on the other side, the young drivers are the future and therefore we need to consider how we want to set ourselves up for the years beyond.”

Wolff said the key was that Hamilton himself is committed to staying in the sport. After that, all discussions would become a lot easier.

“As long as he enjoys racing, I think he’s very capable of going longer. He develops as a driver he looks after himself in terms of physical training and mental preparation.

“So I don’t think in terms of ability that ends in 2021. But at the end it’s his decision.”

The 2021 F1 season will begin on March 28 with Bahrain hosting the first race.

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