Lewis Hamilton could leave Formula One in “a couple of years,” according to Wolff.

Lewis Hamilton will be forced to leave Mercedes if a competitive car is not delivered “in the next couple of years,” according to his team boss.

Toto Wolff stated that he is “absolutely certain” Hamilton will sign a new contract with Mercedes this year.

However, he added: “Nonetheless, if he is to win another championship, he must ensure that he has the car.

“If we can’t show that we can give him the car in the next couple of years, he should look everywhere.”

How to Keep Up with the Saudi Grand Prix
Wolff went on to say: “I don’t think he’ll do it at this point. But I won’t mind if that happens in a year or two.”

And he stated that he and Hamilton were already well on their way to reaching an agreement on a new contract.

“We’re talking about when and how we want to do it,” Wolff said. “We just need to change some terms, primarily the dates.”

Hamilton finished Friday practice in Jeddah 11th fastest, with teammate George Russell fifth, emphasizing Mercedes’ lack of championship chances for the second consecutive season.

Russell finished 0.467 seconds slower than Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, with Fernando Alonso’s Aston Martin second fastest ahead of the Dutchman’s Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez.

Alpine drivers Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly finished fourth and sixth, ahead of Lance Stroll’s Aston Martin and Nico Hulkenberg’s Haas.

Lando Norris of McLaren finished 12th, and British-born Thai Alex Albon of Williams finished 14th.

‘We made a mistake.’
Mercedes spent the time between the first race in Bahrain and this weekend’s event in Jeddah in meetings trying to work out a new development direction for their car, and Hamilton, who was 0.996secs off the pace, has already written off his chances this season.

“We’re not happy with the amount of downforce or the mechanical balance overall,” Wolff said. “It’s all there. It never appears on its own.

“All of these meetings are providing us with more clarity and focus on what we need to address in order to turn this around quickly.”

Wolff expanded on his admission at the first race that the team made a mistake in sticking with the design direction they chose last year rather than switching to the one that all other teams were using.

He stated that this was influenced by the progress they made last year, when they became more competitive as the season progressed and Russell won the season’s penultimate race in Brazil.

“”As the car improved, you began to question the concept of the car less than you probably should,” Wolff explained.

“We worked very hard to make it work because the data we extrapolated showed that it does. We were proven incorrect. Simply put.

“The three fastest cars, including the Ferraris, have a similar concept for generating performance. That is not at all like ours.

“We came to the conclusion at some point that we were mistaken.

“We’re still analyzing why we got it wrong because we followed data and what simulations told us, and in that case, we were misled by the data.

“All of us involved in the decision-making process agreed that we couldn’t go on like this.

“We tried hard to stick to it, and we don’t want to run down a one-way street saying, ‘We’re going to make this work no matter what,’ because it doesn’t.

“I don’t want to squander any more time. My coworkers don’t want to either.”

Another team dealing with the reality that their car is not where they expected it to be is Alpha Tauri, whose team principal Franz Tost expressed his displeasure during a news conference in between sessions.

“The engineers tell me we’re making good progress, but I don’t trust them anymore; I just want to see the lap time because that’s all that matters,” Tost explained.

“Because they told me during the winter months, ‘The car is fantastic, [we] made great progress,’ and then we arrived in Bahrain and were nowhere.

“Because there is insufficient downforce, the car is unstable under braking and overheats the rear tyres. Washing out at the apex, then traction [hurts]. Everything you need to set a fast lap time.”

Yuki Tsunoda and Nick de Vries were 13th and 17th fastest, respectively.

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