Rosberg set to extend his Mercedes contract
The championship leader’s current deal is due to end this year – and both sides of the table are already sharpening their pencils
Nico Rosberg looks likely to stay on at Mercedes beyond the end of his current contract this season. Both Rosberg himself and team boss Toto Wolff have dropped heavy hints that an extension to keep him on as Lewis Hamilton’s team-mate is on the cards.
Wolff said: “It is between two parties and it needs to pan out in the right way. He has been in the family for such a long time; he is a very important pillar of the team and he performs well. There is nothing that speaks against him joining up again but it comes down to the detail and that needs to be discussed at a certain stage. Both sides feel comfortable about it.”
Rosberg was asked whether he was concerned that he was battling for the title without any guarantees about his future and replied: “The contract is not something that is present in my mind. Why should it be? I’m very comfortable anyway here, I have a great relationship and I’ll be here for some time to come, and that’s it.”
The relationship between Hamilton, who is contracted until the end of 2018, and Rosberg works well for Mercedes. In Hamilton, they have arguably the fastest and undoubtedly the highest-profile driver in F1. Rosberg is quick enough to keep him honest and, importantly, to win when he does not. He is also realistic enough to know that, all things being equal, Hamilton is the better driver, yet is psychologically strong and mature enough to deal with that.
Retaining Rosberg would also be a reflection of the situations of the drivers who would be of most interest as a potential replacement. Top of the list are Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen, but both are already under contract to Red Bull – Verstappen until the end of 2017 and Ricciardo for a year longer.
And while Mercedes would have no qualms about partnering Ricciardo with Hamilton on a personality basis, they might consider it was too early for Verstappen. He will be just 19 next year in what will be only his third season in F1.
Pascal Wehrlein, making his debut for Manor this year, is a contracted Mercedes protégé. But next season would also be too early for him as well – both in terms of development and in proving whether he is up to the challenge.