Lewis Hamilton says Mercedes have an obligation to consult him on who should replace retired world champion Nico Rosberg as his Formula One team mate next season, but he will have no say in their ultimate decision and he has no doubt he will beat whoever they sign for the most coveted seat in the sport.
“Basically, once they’ve dwindled it down to five drivers, or whatever it is, the shortlist, contractually they have to discuss with me,” the triple world champion told Channel 4 television. “But I don’t have a say who it is.”
Mercedes have been seeking a replacement for Rosberg since the German stunned the sport by announcing his retirement five days after winning the title in Abu Dhabi at the end of November. His departure leaves Hamilton as the clear favourite to regain the title next year.
The Briton, whose relationship with Rosberg was highly competitive, sometimes glacial and frequently fraught, has said he does not care who his team mate is but he clarifed that in the interview as being “a little bit out of context”.
“It is important who we have in the second car — it’s important for the team’s morale,” he said. “We’ve seen in other teams and times where it can be a poisonous effect on a team, the arch rivalry between drivers. And so for sure that’s really important, because I’m really happy here, I love being where I am.”
“We’ve got to make sure that whatever we bring is at least as good as what we had, if not better, in terms of creating that energy,” he added.
Hamilton, who won ten races last year to Rosberg’s nine, said that when Mercedes did decide, it would be entirely their call.
Finland’s Valtteri Bottas, currently under contract to Williams, is the favourite, with German reserve Pascal Wehrlein also an available option. Mercedes have said any announcement is not likely until the New Year.
“They can put any driver they want – bring Sebastian (Vettel), Fernando (Alonso), bring whoever you really want,” said Hamilton. “I drove against Fernando in my first year (at McLaren in 2007), and beat him, so that’s not a worry for me.”
“I am happy to drive against any of them. But in terms of what is best for the team, probably not the best ideas.”