Lewis Hamilton still doesn’t have a contract for 2021. Various rumours are swirling around and Hamilton fans are up in arms. Is there a real reason to worry?
Currently we know the full 2021 Formula 1 grid, except who will partner Valtteri Bottas at Mercedes. Lewis Hamilton is yet to sign a new contract with Mercedes. The question is why?
Well, Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff both said on numerous occasion that the delay was due to the demands of a compressed 2020 season and they were looking to start negotiations after the season was over, and both championships were in the bag.
The last word we had on this situation came from Toto Wolff, who said he wants to have the contract signed by pre-season testing (which will commence a bit later this year, in March).
“We always prioritized about getting this championship done, and not being distracted by sometimes difficult discussions, as is the nature of negotiation,” said the Austrian.
“But then COVID struck. So it has delayed us a little bit, but we are not worried in eventually getting it done.
“We are putting no special date to it, because we don’t want to be put under pressure from you guys [the media] while it’s not signed yet.
“So sooner or later, it needs to be done. At the latest before we go testing.”
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In addition, Daimler Chairman of the Board of Management Ola Källenius said on numerous occasions that Mercedes would like to keep Lewis Hamilton beyond 2020.
“I think Lewis Hamilton is the greatest, or one of the greatest race drivers of all time,” the Swede said most recently.
“I’ve known him since he was a teenager. I think his dedication and professionalism when it comes to how he has dedicated his life to being the greatest is remarkable and applaudable.
“And he’s a nice guy, too, so we would like to continue this partnership. And then it’s up to Toto in his role to get that done.”
Immediately after the 2020 season was done, Mercedes announced that British chemicals company company INEOS bought into the team and now the ownership is split three ways between Daimler, INEOS and Toto Wolff.
INEOS chairman Sir Jim Ratcliffe also indicated the company would like to see Hamilton in the team, but left the final decision in Wolff’s hands.
“I’m very clear in my mind that Lewis is either the greatest, or one of the two or three greatest ever racing drivers,“ said Ratcliffe after the Mercedes deal was announced.
“There’s absolutely no question of that. He’s just got immense talent.
“And he’s a very likeable chap because I’ve got to know him a little bit, but at the end of the day, these decisions, for me, predominantly sit with Toto.
“Toto has to run that team.”
So what is the problem? Well, Italian newspaper Corriere dello Sport released a story saying Daimler was not willing to commit to a $50 million per year deal that Hamilton allegedly was looking for. Later the same newspaper reported that INEOS could financially intervene to keep Lewis in the team.
After that came the news that Mercedes and Williams will increase their technical partnership from 2022, leading to rumours that this could give the German team the option to put their young driver (and current Williams driver) George Russell in the seat if a deal is not agreed upon with Lewis. At the very least, Russell, who impressed in his Mercedes debut at the Sakhir Grand Prix, could be a good bargaining chip.
The rumours that there are problems in the Hamilton – Mercedes contract negotiation are, of course, completely unsubstantiated, but Hamilton fans in the online community are already really upset. Some are saying Lewis might even announce his retirement if his (alleged) demands are not met. Are there any reasons to be upset?
In a word, no. For Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton this is a business deal. Each party is looking to get the best deal they can get and emotions are not a part of that. Playing hardball is business as usual when huge contracts are being negotiated.
Lewis Hamilton is a seven-time F1 champion, the most successful driver in the history of the sport, it’s completely normal for him to want to get adequately compensated. Daimler and the whole automotive industry has been hit hard by the COVID-19 crisis and it’s completely normal for them to try and cut costs anywhere they can. A deal is somewhere in the middle.
Judging by the statements made in the last few months, everyone involved wants to make the deal happen. Daimler surely wants to have the most successful driver in history in their team and potentially break the record for most F1 drivers’ championships in 2021. The marketing opportunities are huge.
Lewis surely wants to stay in the best team on the grid and make history. He even indicated he wants to remain with Mercedes as an ambassador, or in a different capacity, after he retires. Mercedes brought Michael Schumacher out of retirement upon their return to Formula 1 in 2010, and the German came with a hefty price tag. They are no strangers to breaking the bank to get the most prestige and marketing opportunities that they can get.
So, ultimately, if we were going to put our money on an outcome, it would be on Lewis signing with Mercedes before pre-season testing. Is there a chance that this will not happen? Sure, anything is possible, but is it a reason to be upset? Not really, it’s just business for both parties. However, there is genuine love there too, mostly between Toto and Lewis. We put our money on a deal being reached sooner rather than later. A deal both parties can live with.