Feb.5 (GMM) Toto Wolff is already fending off the early and wild rumours about who will replace Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes in 2025.
One of the wildest is that it may be the perfect opportunity for quadruple world champion Sebastian Vettel to mount a Formula 1 comeback.
“We talked yesterday,” team boss Wolff told journalists including one for the German broadcaster RTL. “But it wasn’t about him driving again.
“I think Sebastian has made the decision that he doesn’t want to do that anymore.”
Wolff insists that he currently as “no romantic thoughts” about a high profile replacement for Hamilton, given that he was just as surprised as the rest of the world about the seven time world champion’s Maranello move.
There are reports Hamilton, 39, was finally lured into red on the promise of an incredible $100 million per year deal. “I think Lewis already has a lot of money,” former Ferrari driver Mika Salo smiled to Ilta Sanomat newspaper.
What is clear is that the impending move to Italy will ensure an awkward 2024 season not only for Hamilton, but also the man he will replace in 2025 – Carlos Sainz.
“It’s going to be difficult for everyone,” another former Ferrari driver, Jean Alesi, told RMC Sport.
“As soon as Lewis enters the paddock, all the questions will be about Ferrari when he has 24 grands prix to do for Mercedes.”
1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve agrees: “It will be very interesting to see how Mercedes manages the fight between George Russell and Hamilton now.
“It is clear that something is not working at Mercedes,” he told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “Lewis no longer believes in the engineers and he no longer believes in Toto.
“After all the space and the freedom they gave him, I really didn’t expect this. It was Mercedes who created Hamilton’s image,” Villeneuve added. “They believed he would remain an ambassador for life.”
As for Villeneuve’s 2025 pick for Mercedes, he admitted: “It would be great if Mercedes signed Fernando Alonso. Also because you can’t put another young guy with Russell.”
Wolff, meanwhile, is clearly upset that Hamilton kept his Ferrari talks completely secret until last week – after Charles Leclerc re-committed to Maranello and Lando Norris inked a new long-term deal at McLaren.
“What was surprising wasn’t that it happened,” Wolff admitted, “but rather the timing. When we said goodbye for the Christmas vacation, we were still on the same wavelength.”
Nonetheless, Wolff’s claim about not being surprised may be wide of the truth.
“Mercedes, Ferrari and McLaren were all recently on the same technical level. Nobody stood out,” he insisted. “If Lewis had gone to Red Bull, the motive would have been clearer.”
However, Wolff insists that he can “relax” about its 2025 lineup because Russell has already proved he can lead from the cockpit.