Mercedes Formula 1 chief Toto Wolff says he can see three-time world champion Lewis Hamilton completing the rest of his career with the team, something he did not think would happen one year ago.
Hamilton has raced with Mercedes since 2013, claiming two F1 drivers’ titles in that time and the majority of his grand prix victories.
Hamilton is currently in the second of his three-year contract with Mercedes, and will be 33 upon its expiration at the end of next season.
Speaking to the Daily Mail, Wolff said he could see Hamilton remaining at the team “forever”, believing their relationship to be stronger than ever.
“If you would have asked me the same question one year ago, I would not have been very optimistic, but now it is different,” Wolff said.
“I have the feeling that it can’t be much better in a different place, for him and for us.
“This is very strong now, and I am not speaking only about on-track performance because there are going to be difficult moments, but I am speaking about the relationship.
“After five years, this relationship has become so strong in a way that it wasn’t last season. For Lewis it will be important to see whether we are competitive or not.
“But at the moment there is such a solid basis that I can imagine it going on forever.”
Wolff believes there has been a shift for Hamilton in the wake of Nico Rosberg’s departure from the team at the end of 2016 following the German’s world title win.
Hamilton and Rosberg enjoyed a frosty rivalry that saw them clash a number of times on-track, with the latter’s exit helping to ease some of the tension within the team.
“Definitely the biggest positive development I have seen between 2013 and now happened over the winter and after Nico left the team,” Wolff said.
“Drivers are sometimes viewed within teams as contractors and they will always look after their own agenda rather than the team’s interest.
“But Lewis is now in his fifth year with us and that has changed. He has become a part of the team.
“I would not use the world team player because that goes against the DNA of a racing driver, but I think he has realized, acknowledged and respects the whole effort that is happening in the team.
“Somehow it has become natural, he towards the team, and the team towards him. We have built a trustful relationship.”