JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia — Toto Wolff wouldn’t blame Lewis Hamilton for leaving Mercedes if the team’s struggles continue for another year or two.
Hamilton looks set for another disappointing season this year after Mercedes fell behind Red Bull over the winter and behind its engine customer Aston Martin.
Hamilton has won six of his seven titles with Mercedes, but his current contract expires at the end of this year.
Team boss Wolff, who asked his engineers to go back to the drawing board after the first qualifying session of the year in Bahrain, does not expect Hamilton to leave Mercedes at the end of this year, but would not hold a grudge against his pilot if he considers other options beyond that.
“I don’t think Lewis will leave Mercedes,” Wolff said. “He is at the stage of a career where we trust each other, we have formed a great bond with each other and we have no reason to doubt each other, although this is a difficult period.”
“It will be very nice when we come out of this vale of tears and put on solid performances again.
“However, as a driver, if you want to win another championship, you have to make sure you have the car. And if we can’t show that we can give you a car for years to come, then you need to look everywhere.
“I don’t think I’m doing it at that stage, but I won’t have any grunts if that happens in a year or two.”
Wolff accepts that Mercedes made bad decisions with its car design this year, but said it started the season believing it would still be competitive.
“I think we really put a lot of effort into making it work, because the data that we’ve extrapolated showed us that this works and we were proven wrong, very simply,” Wolff said. “You can see that the three fastest cars have a similar concept of how they generate performance, and it’s very different to ours.
“At a certain point we came to the conclusion that we were wrong. We were just wrong.”
“We understand, very clearly, what we’ve done and why we ended up in a place that’s not performing for us. But to understand it from the scientific side, let’s just say, it’s not yet…sometimes it’s difficult.” to find a way back to real performance in the car.
“But we’re a big step ahead of what we’ve seen after the pre-season test, in terms of our understanding.”