JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia — Toto Wolff would not 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 slipped further 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 called on 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 driver if he considers other options beyond that.
“I don’t think that Lewis will leave Mercedes,” Wolff said. “He’s at the stage of a career where we trust each other, we have formed the great bond among each other and we have no reason to doubt each other, even though this is a difficult spell.
“It will be so nice when we come out of this valley of tears, and come back to solid performances.
“Nevertheless, as a driver if he wants to win another championship, he needs to make sure that he has the car. And if we cannot demonstrate that we’re able to give him a car in the next couple of years, then he needs to look everywhere.
“I don’t think he’s doing it at that stage, but I will have no grouch if that happens in a year or two.”
Wolff accepts Mercedes made incorrect decisions with its car design this year, but said it went into the season believing it would still be competitive.
“I think we’d really tried hard to make it work, because the data that we have extrapolated showed us that this works and we were proven wrong, very simply,” Wolff said. “You can see that the three quickest cars have a similar concept of how they generate performance, and it’s very different to ours.
“At a certain stage we came to the conclusion, we got this wrong. Simply, we got it wrong.
“We do understand, crystal clear, what we’ve done and why we ended up in a place that doesn’t bring us performance. But understanding it from the, let’s say, scientific side isn’t yet … it’s sometimes difficult to find a way back into real performance onto the car.
“But we have a big step ahead to what we’ve seen after the preseason test, in terms of our understanding.”