Wolff plays down Alonso driver swap claims

MARCH 3, 2016

Wolff plays down Alonso driver swap claims

Toto Wolff has played down reports Fernando Alonso almost replaced reigning champion Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes last year.

Alonso had made the claims on Spanish radio, revealing talks took place when he was still a Ferrari driver about trading places with Mercedes' British star.

"It was tried. Yes, yes, there was this offer," the Spaniard said.

Wolff, the Mercedes team boss, played down Alonso's claims.

"We should be careful what is said in the media," he is quoted by the Mirror newspaper.

"There was some interest expressed but we were in negotiation with Lewis at the time. What I said to Fernando was that while we were negotiating with Lewis, we wouldn't talk to anyone else. And we stuck to that commitment," Wolff insisted.

It might be argued that Alonso's claims about his interest in joining Mercedes are aptly timed, as he struggles with McLaren-Honda in the same year that Nico Rosberg's Mercedes contract is set to run out.

As for the impending talks with Rosberg, Wolff said: "I want to see how the season pans out."

But it is believed the 2015 swap between Mercedes and Ferrari was touted because neither the drivers nor Mercedes had the appetite to pair Hamilton with Alonso.

Hamilton told Britain's Sky in Barcelona: "I don't care who I race against.

"I'm happy with what we have here," he added. "We've already raced together in the same car and got a result so it's not like anything else needs proving."

Finally, the reigning triple world champion played down suggestions his Barcelona test form suggests he may still be struggling to match Rosberg's pace.

"What can I say?" Hamilton answered. "This is just testing."

(GMM)

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