Verstappen not only option as Hamilton successor - Wolff

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff insists that Max Verstappen is not the only Formula 1 driver that his team could look to lead it in the future when Lewis Hamilton does retire.

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Hamilton is currently only on a one-year contract with Mercedes, but is eager to nail down this summer a longer term deal that carries him through to the next few seasons.

However, Mercedes is well aware that at some point it will need to look to the future and find someone who can step up and carry its world title hopes.

Verstappen has long been linked with Mercedes as a potential longer-term target, especially if Red Bull cannot deliver the title winning machinery the Dutchman so desires.

But Wolff is clear that there are other candidates out there besides Verstappen right now who have the potential to come through and succeed.

"You always look at the group of people that could be in a Mercedes in the future," said Wolff, in an exclusive interview with Motorsport.com's Italian website. 

"Max is certainly a fantastic star of the future, but he's not the only one. And I see a group coming up of really good young drivers that are not yet in the machines they need in order to win.

"And in that respect, it's good to see the way how that pans out."

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Mercedes is already weighing up potential youngsters to step up to the team in 2022, if Valtteri Bottas does not secure a fresh contract.

But Wolff is clear that he is fully committed to giving Bottas the opportunity to prove he deserves to stay before he makes any decision about his next steps.

"Valtteri stays our driver, and I will be always loyal to both of our drivers, and not dwell about the future," he said. "But we all have the obligation to, how can I say it, map out the plans. And in that respect, we have to consider all options for both of the cars.

"As we have two Mercedes juniors with Esteban [Ocon] and George [Russell], they play a certain role. And we also are having an eye on the other young guys that are coming up strong. But having said that, today, there's only two drivers I look up and that is Valtteri and Lewis."

Wolff was also clear that he had nothing but praise for everything Hamilton had brought to Mercedes, and said the Briton was 'essential' to the team's success.

"Lewis has been with Mercedes forever," he said. "He's an integral part of the team today. He contributes to the team's performance, and he is the most visible of all the people that work in the team and plays a fundamental part in our success.

"He races the car, he is the last line of attack, with Valtteri. And that's why he is essential for us today."

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