Lewis Hamilton is set to claim an unprecedented eighth drivers’ world title – and then leave Mercedes and retire from Formula One, predicted rival team boss Zak Brown of McLaren.
Brown, the architect of McLaren’s resurgence after a spell in the doldrums, told the Daily Mail he believed Max Verstappen of Red Bull and George Russell of Williams will be recruited by Mercedes in an all-new line-up for 2022.
He added that he would not be keen to offer Hamilton a return to McLaren next year because he was building the team for the future with Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo.
Speaking ahead of this weekend’s season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, Brown explained that it would be "bad timing" if Hamilton wanted to find a seat next year.
The seven-time champion’s decision to sign only a one-year contract with Mercedes has made his future the subject of intense speculation as the F1 circus prepares for the start of a record 23-race season to run under Covid-19 restrictions.
"If I had an opening, would I put Lewis in the car? Of course, but we are trying to build for the future -- hence this kind of youth-and-experience combination," Brown was quoted saying.
"You feel if you brought Lewis back now it would be for a one or two-year journey and we know we are not ready to compete for championships, so we need to set up a driver line-up that gets us to that position and that when we reach it they are ready.
"Daniel is ready now, of course. I don’t think the timing is right for Lewis.”
On Mercedes future plans, he added: “I think you will see Max and George there in 2022. I think that’s the obvious conclusion.
"Lewis wins title No 8 this year and is the winningest driver in every category. They have a one-year deal with him. George is coming out of his deal and Max has a deal he comes out of.
"You have Max’s experience and youth. You have George’s youth. If I’m Mercedes, that’s a pretty ‘killer line-up’ for the next five years."
© Agence France-Presse
FROM THE ARCHIVES