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Toto Wolff: Mercedes team boss contracted coronavirus in January

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Lewis Hamilton and Toto Wolff
Toto Wolff says contract negotiations continue with Lewis Hamilton

Mercedes Formula 1 boss Toto Wolff has revealed he contracted coronavirus earlier this month.

The 49-year-old said he has now recovered after submitting a positive test while on a break in Austria.

“We had planned to be here for a few days and out of nowhere I got a positive corona test,” Wolff told Austria’s ORF TV channel.

“But everything’s fine. No symptoms, thank God. It could have gone badly, but we’re out of quarantine.”

Wolff added he was still in the process of negotiating a new contract with seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton to race on with Mercedes this year – and was confident it would be concluded before the start of pre-season testing in Bahrain in March.

“The lawyers are working hard,” Wolff said at the Kitzbuhel downhill ski race. “We don’t make life easy for them, of course, when we both argue over Zoom and keep sending curveballs to the lawyers.

“But he’s in America now and I’m here. At some point we will finalise it.

“It’s how it is with negotiations. You always come from different corners, but that’s quite normal.

“We have a really solid basis in our relationship. We have celebrated great successes together and want to continue doing so in the future.

“But sometimes you have to talk things out in detail, and that took or still takes us some time. But before Bahrain at the latest, you have to sign something at some point.”

Wolff said the strong performance of George Russell when he stood in for Hamilton after the Briton contracted Covid-19 before the penultimate race of the season had not played a part in the talks.

“We never played the George Russell card,” he said. “He did incredibly well and will one day be in a top car, but our long-standing partnership is not at all about making any threatening gestures.

“We know we want to race together. And now we have to negotiate the contract.”

Wolff becomes the ninth senior F1 figure to contract the virus since the start of the pandemic.

Five drivers have had it – Lewis Hamilton, Charles Leclerc, Lando Norris, Lance Stroll and Sergio Perez – as well as Williams team principal Simon Roberts and Red Bull sporting director Jonathan Wheatley. All have recovered.

The sport is preparing to begin the 2021 season with the Bahrain Grand Prix on 26-28 March, following the postponement of the planned opening race of the season in Australia because of travel restrictions in the country.

The Australian Grand Prix has been rescheduled for November.

New F1 president Stefano Domenicali said last week the sport would have to be “flexible” when it comes to its schedule this season as the pandemic develops.

A record 23-race season is scheduled but Domenicali told Sky: “I’m personally speaking on a daily basis with all the organisers,” he revealed. “We know the pandemic is still there – that’s why we changed the place in the calendar of Australia.

“But so far the information we have is that everyone really would like to go ahead with the plan. Of course we need to be flexible enough to understand that maybe in the first part of the season we may have some events with no public or with restricted members of the public.

“But what I can assure our supporters, our fans, is that really we want to make sure that the season is there, we have a commitment and we want to take that on board, and we have possible alternatives in case – but so far no-one has given us different information to what we have shared.”

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