FEBRUARY 22, 2024

Wolff to decide Hamilton successor around May

Toto Wolff had to put a brave face on the fact that Red Bull appears to have pulled off making the scrapped Mercedes-like car concept of 2022-2023 work.

Lewis Hamilton, Abu Dhabi GP 2023
© Mercedes

Red Bull's Dr Helmut Marko admitted the radical move was a risk for the already-dominant Formula 1 team, but the team trusted in the wind tunnel data.

We did too, but unfortunately it didn't work, Mercedes boss Wolff told Sky Italia at the Bahrain test.

But I think the most important thing for them performance-wise is the floor, not what you see above it.

He therefore defends the move to a more 2023-style Red Bull concept, with George Russell declaring after Wednesday's running that the new Mercedes is nicer to drive.

The fact is that the mood within the team is good, said Wolff, denying that Lewis Hamilton's impending move to Ferrari for 2025 is a downer for the team.

"We have a new car in which we have followed our own idea, and if we abandoned the other concept then it's because we understood that it was not ideal.

We have opted for a more conventional platform, which will be very developable during the season.

Some had suspected that an innovation on the front wing, exploiting a loophole in the aerodynamic regulations, would be deemed illegal by the FIA.

Wolff explained: Obviously it's not something we've just put on the car. It's something we have been working with the FIA on for months and it has passed all the controls.

Less controllable now for Wolff is the suddenly-altered dynamic of having a seven time world champion driver who will depart after the season.

It surprised me a lot, Wolff admits. We went on holiday thinking he would stay, even if the 1-plus-1 contract allowed him to free himself. I was surprised, but that's how it went.

17-year-old Formula 2 rookie Kimi Antonelli is an early favourite to replace Hamilton, as Wolff declared that Mercedes will try to build a winning team for the future without its current star driver.

Let's see, he said when asked about Antonelli. "I like the boy and I like his family but let's not put extra pressure on him because he's only 17.

There are many excellent drivers who are already on the grid and available so it won't be something we decide soon, Wolff added. It will be around May, after the first races.