Formula One fans have been spying on Mercedes’ social media for months to find out when the team plans to #AnnounceLewis for 2021.
Hamilton technically terminated his contract on the first. In January, at the end of his previous two-year contract, he was not afraid to not continue this year.
The fans just wanted clarity and confirmation.
On Monday, this confirmation was finally dropped, but there was a surprise in the process. Unlike his previous multi-year contracts, this was a one-year contract.
Lewis Hamilton said they tried to stop me when asked about his penalties at the Russian Grand Prix. Dan Istitenet – Formula One via Getty Images
There was never any doubt that Hamilton would drive the Mercedes again this year. There was no room left with the other teams, and the top team in net didn’t want to scare off the seven-time world champion.
Hamilton might have turned his back on the sport, but with a record eight titles in Formula One history – and his own place in history ahead of Michael Schumacher with seven championships – that would have been a remarkable decision.
During an online press conference on Monday, team president Toto Wolfe said there was never a moment when we thought he wouldn’t sign, and there was never a moment when he doubted he would sign.
Then why wait so long?
Firstly, the negotiations started much later than Mercedes or Hamilton expected. Initially, both sides postponed negotiations because of the coronavirus pandemic, which reduced the 17-race schedule to six months, and because of social distancing measures that made it difficult to sit down with each other off the track.
Moreover, both parties were confident that the other would continue until 2021, so there was no urgency to intervene during the season.
For Hamilton, it seemed prudent to concentrate on securing his seventh title first, so negotiations were initially postponed until the final three races of the season in the Middle East.
But after winning the first of these races – the Bahrain Grand Prix in November – Hamilton contracted COVID-19 disease and was forced to retire and withdraw from the penultimate Grand Prix in Sahir.
After a quick recovery and ten days of isolation in Bahrain, he returned to the Formula One paddock on the eve of the final race weekend in Abu Dhabi – but once again the race took precedence over sitting around the table.
This delayed the start of negotiations a week before Christmas, less than two weeks before the expiry of Hamilton’s previous two-year contract, which was scheduled for the end of 2020.
Again, both sides were silent, knowing that the 2021 contract was never in question, but that a number of other factors had to be taken into account in order to make a long-term commitment, which Wolff, who also caught KOVID-19 in January, said was not easy to resolve in the time remaining.
It was finally decided to sign the contract for 2021 and postpone negotiations for 2022 and beyond.
Lewis Hamilton has been with Mercedes since 2013. Giuseppe Cacas – Pool/Getty Images
We have agreed on a one-year contract, Wolf said. Firstly, the regulatory environment will change dramatically in 2022, and we also want to see how the world and the industry evolve.
On the other hand, we wanted to discuss the contract at the end of the season between the races in Bahrain, because we had put it off for a very long time and Lewis was obviously not doing so well at the time and we finally started our negotiations and discussions just before Christmas and it was important that it happened as soon as possible.
With this in mind, we felt it necessary to postpone the conversation about 2022 and beyond until later in 2021.
There are plans to set an earlier date for the start of negotiations this year, but it is not yet clear what factors are preventing the consolidation of long-term commitments. Wolff said the new technical rules for 2022 are the biggest threat to Mercedes’ future dominance in F1, but the new post-pandemic financial reality seems to be the central factor.
There are vagaries in the world that affect the way sport can work, and those can affect our revenue, our television revenue, our sponsorship revenue, Wolfe explained, emphasizing what can change between now and the next negotiation.
Mercedes is in the process of transforming itself into a major electric mobility company, which entails investments. So we live in a very different financial reality than we did a few years ago.
But having said that, Lewis, myself and the whole group at Mercedes are in complete agreement about the situation. There was never any disagreement, we just got a good signature for 2021 because we have to go there and then in 2021 – earlier this time – find time to discuss the future.
Not only until 2022, but also afterwards. We didn’t want to jeopardize that with video conferences between Christmas and the end of January.
But Mr Wolf stressed that the reason for the stalled negotiations was more complex than just the financial figures in the contract.
Lewis has always understood that this is a very difficult time, he said. Difficult for everyone, difficult from a health point of view, there are far more important things than Formula 1 and the car industry is also in a period of transformation.
So the money issue was not a point of contention. Rather, it was about reaching [a deal] that would allow us to move quickly to 2021.
The slow pace of negotiations between Lewis Hamilton and Toto Wolfe helped to build mutual trust and seal the deal. Dan Istitenet – Formula One via Getty Images
Wolff also took the opportunity to deny rumours that Hamilton would have a veto over the choice of his future teammate after Valtteri Bottas, who also has a one-year contract with Mercedes until the end of 2021.
As for the specific points that have been in the media, I don’t know where they came from because none of this is true, he said. I read about it, I thought it was an interesting perspective.
But the truth is that there was not a single second of discussion about a particular article on drivers. He’s never asked for it in the last eight years and it’s a team decision.
The other caveat [suggested by the media], that Lewis will receive a portion of the proceeds or a share of the income, is also unfounded. So none of this has ever been part of our discussions.
CouldHamilton quit F1 at the end of 2021?
The lack of a contract beyond this year gives Hamilton the chance to leave the sport at the end of the season. He could then have become an eight-time world champion, which would have made him the most successful Formula One driver of all time and given him a rare opportunity to assert himself at the top.
I think it’s Lewis’ decision, Wolfe said. As long as he likes racing, I think he’s very capable of moving on.
He’s developing as a rider, he’s taking care of his physical fitness and mental preparation, so I don’t think it’s over in 2021 in terms of ability, but ultimately it’s his decision.
I think Lewis has to decide what the future holds for him, so I don’t want to comment on where Lewis is.
One indication that Hamilton wants to stay with Mercedes beyond 2021 is the creation of a charity fund to promote diversity and inclusion in motorsport as part of the new contract. Mercedes and Hamilton were both pivotal in F1 in 2020, but these changes are largely a long-term commitment.
Like most of his contemporaries, Lewis Hamilton went down on his knees for every Formula One race in 2020. Dan Istitenet – Formula One via Getty Images
The Hamilton-Mercedes pool, originally proposed by Ola Kallenius, the CEO of Daimler’s parent company, suggests that Hamilton plans to stay with Mercedes at some level for the next few years. This commitment may be more of an ambassador role than a driver role, but it suggests that Hamilton has no intention of leaving Mercedes for another F1 team.
Mercedes, of course, also has its own interests to defend and will make plans outside of Hamilton – even if it opts for another contract for a few seasons after 2021. Key to these plans will be George Russell, who is currently on loan to Williams by Mercedes, but will be released from his contract at Williams at the end of the year.
Russell backed Hamilton at the Sakhir Grand Prix last year, confirming the potential he suspected at Mercedes when they began investing in his career in 2016 and labelling him a star of the future.
Wolff said Mercedes will first approach Hamilton and Bottas in any contract negotiations in 2022, but it is possible Russell’s arrival at the team could coincide with a revision of Formula One regulations early next year.
The team has to decide in the long term what we will do with the drivers, Wolff said. Valtteri and Lewis have our 100% commitment and loyalty until 2021, we will support them with everything we have.
Then we look back on this year and say what reach we represent in 2022 and beyond. Our first talks will be with Valtteri and Lewis, who respect our values of loyalty and integrity. On the other hand, young riders are the future, so we have to think about how we want to build ourselves up for the next few years.
Therefore, it is unlikely that Mercedes and Hamilton will have different hands in the contract negotiations for 2022 than those who made the deal announced on Monday. The obstacles to an agreement that will take more than a year this time will still be there in 2022, but ultimately there will be more time to find a solution that is acceptable to both sides.
He’s the best driver for me, Wolfe said. He has a huge fan base around the world, far more than race fans, and has won seven championships – with no major mistakes in the last three years. Like many members of the team and the organization in general, he is a vital pillar of the team’s success. On the other hand, Lewis realizes that he is one of the 2,000 members of our team – engine and chassis – and that it is not two superstars, but 2,000 superstars, and that each of us contributes to the success of the team.
And then, because he has such a helicopter perspective on the world, it was a very difficult year, for us personally, from a health standpoint, and also from an economic standpoint, so he knew that, although he was doing it from his side, there was an economic reality that had to be respected.
frequently asked questions
Has Lewis Hamilton signed a new contract for 2021?
Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton has signed a new one-year contract with Mercedes for the 2021 season. … Our team has achieved incredible results together, Hamilton said.
What is the length of Lewis Hamilton’s contract?
Lewis Hamilton has signed a one-year contract until the end of 2021 with Mercedes’ Formula One team, ending a long period of negotiations between the team and the driver.
WillHamilton retire from Formula 1?
Although Hamilton has not yet signed a new contract with Mercedes, he is ready to commit after the last three 2020 Formula One races and spoke at length about Ferrari at a press conference ahead of the Bahrain GP on Thursday. I’ve never been close to leaving my team, Hamilton said of his 2019 interviews.
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