Reigning F1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton is entering the final year of his contract with Mercedes AMG Petronas, and both sides have expressed willingness to stay together for 2016 and beyond.
But it never hurts to have a back-up plan, and Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has apparently revealed his.
In an interview with Italy’s La Gazzetta dello Sport, Wolff says that another two-time World Champ, McLaren’s Fernando Alonso, would top his driver shortlist in the event that a deal with Hamilton can’t be reached.
Additionally, he mentions Williams young gun Valtteri Bottas as a second alternative behind the Spaniard.
“There’s no hurry, we’ll discuss it during the year,” Wolff told the Italian publication as relayed by Reuters. “I’m an optimist. The priority is to continue with these drivers [Hamilton and teammate Nico Rosberg].
“Should it not be possible, then Alonso represents the first alternative, then there’s Bottas.”
Alonso recently returned to McLaren to join with Jenson Button for 2015 as part of a multi-year contract according to the team.
But if they’re unable to come out of the gate strong with new Honda engines, it could cause Alonso’s eyes to look elsewhere for a better opportunity to capture a third F1 title.
Wolff praises Alonso in the interview as “dangerous in any car,” and there’s certainly no doubt of Alonso’s ability. But it must be considered that this may simply be a move by Wolff to spur Hamilton on with the process of getting a new deal done.
However, even if that is the case, you still figure the chances of a break-up between Hamilton and Mercedes are minimal at this point following such a successful 2014.
With Rosberg locked in on a multi-year deal as of last July, Wolff has to know that retaining Hamilton is still the best option for the ‘Silver Arrows.’