Motor tracing-Mercedes open on Hamilton's future after 2021, says Wolff


FILE PHOTO: Formula One F1 - Abu Dhabi Grand Prix - Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates - December 12, 2020 Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton wears a Black Lives Matter face mask after qualifying in third position Pool via REUTERS/Kamran Jebreili

LONDON (Reuters) - Mercedes said they never doubted seven-times Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton would race on for them this year but recognised the future beyond that remained uncertain.

The sport's dominant team announced on Monday a one-year extension with the 36-year-old Briton, less than expected.

"There was not a moment where we thought he would not sign. There was never a moment where he doubted," team boss and co-owner Toto Wolff told reporters on a Zoom call.

The Austrian dismissed media reports that suggested Hamilton, out of contract since December, had sought a share of team revenues and a veto on future driver signings -- a so-called 'Max Verstappen clause'.

Red Bull's Verstappen is seen as a champion-in-waiting and reports had suggested the Briton was not keen to have him as a future team mate.

"On these specific clauses that were out there in the media, I don't know where it came from because none of it is true," said Wolff.

"The truth is there was not a discussion about any driver-specific clause, he has never asked for that in the last eight years and it is a team decision."

Wolff said the reports about a revenue split were also 'baseless' and money, with Hamilton previously earning a reported 40 million pounds ($54.92 million) a year, not a sticking point.

"Lewis needs to decide what his future holds for him," the boss said of the future, hoping also that any next deal would be done quicker. "The team needs to decide in the long term what we want to do about drivers.

"As long as he enjoys racing, I think he’s very capable of going longer.

"He develops as a driver, he looks after himself in terms of physical training and the mental preparation side, so I don’t think in terms of ability that ends in 2021, but at the end it's his decision."

Wolff, who has young Briton George Russell waiting in the wings at Williams, said Valtteri Bottas and Hamilton could count on full support for 2021 but the team also needed to take a long-term view.

He pointed also to industry transformation, with Mercedes and parent Daimler investing heavily in electric mobility, creating "a financial reality that is very different to what it was a few years ago."

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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