Mercedes' prospects of luring Fernando Alonso away from McLaren suffered a massive blow after his manager Flavio Briatore made it clear that they will respect the contract with the Woking-based team.
Toto Wolff has confirmed that the two-time world champion was being considered for the seat vacated by Nico Rosberg, who shocked the F1 world by announcing his retirement just days after winning his first title. Niki Lauda and the Silver Arrows' team boss admitted that the Mercedes Formula One team have been compromised as they cannot sign the driver of their choice as all the top drivers are already committed to rival teams.
Lewis Hamilton and Alonso spent one year at McLaren in 2008 and shared a fractious relationship, which saw the latter leave after just one season. He has since been with Ferrari, but left the Italian team with two years remaining on his deal to rejoin McLaren. However, Briatore has indicated that the situations were different and his client will not leave McLaren before the end of his current deal.
"How is it, whenever a seat becomes free, Fernando is always mentioned?" Briatore told Italy's Gazzetta dello Sport, as quoted by Autoweek. "There is a contract (with McLaren) and we respect it.
"The situation was different and we had an agreement with Montezemolo [then Ferrari president Luca di]. If we didn't win the title in 2014, he would be free to leave. Luca kept that promise. It's true that [then team principal Marco] Mattiacci offered us a three-year renewal, but we refused."
Meanwhile, Pascal Wehrlein, who is part of the Mercedes driver program, is the favourite for the vacant seat at Mercedes, but Wolff made it clear that "raw pace" will be the main criteria when they choose Hamilton's partner. However, the Mercedes boss has now mentioned that keeping the three-time world champion happy is also on their agenda and therefore the dynamics between the two drivers will be another factor which will influence the selection process.
"He [Hamilton] has been a great pillar in the team's success. When he came, everything changed, so he has played a role," Wolff told Sky Sports F1.
"It's very important to keep him in a good place. The dynamics between the two drivers is one of the factors we will consider," he added.