Hamilton contract to be settled before testing at the latest – Wolff

2020 F1 season

Posted on

| Written by and

Lewis Hamilton’s new contract to drive for Mercedes in the 2021 F1 season must be signed before pre-season testing begins at the latest, says team principal Toto Wolff.

Mercedes today announced significant changes in the ownership of the team with Wolff and sponsor Ineos each taking one-third stakes in the world champions, while Daimler reduced their share to the same amount.

Hamilton, who joined Mercedes in 2013 and won his seventh world championship this year, is yet to sign a contract to remain with the team next season. Their talks have been repeatedly delayed over the course of the pandemic-affected season.

However Wolff insisted he has no concerns a deal will be done before Hamilton is due to return to the cockpit.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Istanbul Park, 2020
Hamilton clinched his seventh title this year
“From my point of view we’ve had such a successful run of championships in the past seven years that there is no reason not to continue,” said Wolff. “He’s on the top of his game and he will be for a while. And that’s why continuing together is a no-brainer.”

Negotiations over Hamilton’s new contract were delayed when he missed a race after testing positive for Covid-19 earlier this month.

“We always prioritised getting this championship done and not being distracted by sometimes difficult discussions as it is the nature of negotiation,” said Wolff.

“But then Covid struck. That delayed us a little bit but we are not worried in eventually getting it done. We are not putting a special date to it because we don’t want to be put under pressure from [the media] why it’s not signed yet. So sooner or later it needs to be done but the latest is before we go testing.”

Drivers, Circuit de Catalunya, 2020
F1 drivers salaries 2020
Ineos chairman Sir Jim Ratcliffe, a new co-owner of the team, said decisions over driver contracts will remain in Wolff’s hands as the team principal.

“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, “I think there’s absolutely no question of that. He’s just got immense talent. And he’s a very likeable chap, again, as I’ve got to know him a little bit.

“But at the end of the day all these decisions for me predominantly sit with Toto. Toto’s got to run that team. But one thing I would say about Lewis is there has been no diminution of his skills. He clearly is absolutely at the top of the game despite the fact he’s 35. There’s absolutely no sign of any change.”

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

Daimler and Mercedes chairman Ola Källenius, who knew Hamilton when he was a teenager, wants to keep the seven-times champion within the Mercedes fold but wouldn’t be drawn on his remuneration.

“We’re not going to talk about driver salaries in the public domain,” said Källenius, “but I can only reiterate what Jim said. I think Lewis Hamilton is the greatest or one of the greatest race drivers of all time.”

“I was the Mercedes guy at McLaren in 2002-3 and then went to HPP [Mercedes High Performance Powertrains] and I could see Lewis move up the ranks through the different series. I met him, I think he was 15 years old. Back then we used to joke ‘there’s the next Formula 1 world champion’ and we didn’t know what was to come. So I’ve known him for a very long time.

“I think his dedication and professionalism when it comes to how he has dedicated his life to being the greatest is remarkable and applaud-able. And I also agree with what Jim said that he’s a nice guy too. We’d like to continue this partnership and then it’s up to Toto in his role to get that done.”

Advert | Become a Supporter & go ad-free

2020 F1 season

Browse all 2020 F1 season articles

Author information

Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

33 comments on “Hamilton contract to be settled before testing at the latest – Wolff”

  1. This is starting to sound like Ayrton Senna in 1993. Maybe he’ll be paid per race too.

    1. And comfortably sitting at home, waiting for his salary to arrive on his bank account and then arriving at the track 15 minutes before the start of FP1 😜

    2. Seeing the trend I am half expecting next season it will be “Hamilton’s contract to be settled end of 2021 season”.

  2. Is Hamilton not out of contract on December 31?

    Obviously as a free agent he could then re-sign for Mercedes whenever, but if he’s no longer contracted to the team then this would presumably impact on (for example) sponsorship deals that are contingent on Hamilton’s presence at the team.

    Again – this is all very, very weird. Surely someone in one of the camps is willing to talk about what’s really going on?

    1. The only shenanigans I can imagine given by statements made by mostly Lewis so far is that he’s seeking for both more (or equal) money while also looking to severely decrease sponsor commitments (his comments about wanting to travel less), which doesn’t seem like a great deal for Mercedes as a team.

      I doubt it’s anything major about Lewis wanting to retire at this point, or Toto wanting to severely underpay him. Just finicky details.

    2. Yes, if Lewis isn’t out of contract now then he soon will be. The question is how long are Mercedes prepared to wait before they start looking for someone else? We all know Mercedes should be able to buy George Russell out of his contract with Williams, and there’s Nico Hulkenberg and several other drivers who are out of contract at the moment that might believe they are better than Valtteri.

  3. I mean i was aware Toto wasn’t exactly a regular working class Joe, but damn, one third?

    1. @mrboerns
      Toto previously held a 30% share, so he’s only actually bought another 3 1/3%!!!

    2. Did he not make all his money working at an investment bank. I mean he must be worth a fair bit he owned a large share in williams before he went to Mercedes

      1. He runs two investment companies so owns or part owns quite a few listed hi tech companies with a number having connections to motorsport. And obv acquired just under 5% in Aston Martin recently.

      2. Not quite the same now, is it? i mean even I could probably by a stake in Williams if i wanted to.

  4. It seems there is a lot happening at mercedes.. the sale to Ineos/Wolf . Loosing the majority share by Mercedes and the refusal by Hamilton to sign a contract .
    He probably waits until the Pandemic ( and the resulting loss of workers at Daimler) are not tainting his excessive financial demands any longer..

  5. Mercedes laying people off and Lewis getting paid 40-50 million per year just looks bad.

    So they will probably put of the signing until economic situation improves for Mercedes. This way it looks less bad.

    Or… He can just retire and travel way less. 8th title would come handy in GOAT debates. But hardlly naysayers will be convinced by an easy 2021 win against Bottas.

    1. For Mercedes even after laying off 12,000 staff paying lewis Hamilton $50 million a year isn’t going to cause much trouble. Mercedes would say he is worth the money for them for his performances on track and his worth off it. They use him in plenty of adverts now. Also I’m sure I read that before Mercedes returned to f1 the average age of someone who buys a Mercedes was 50+ and that his now down to 40+. They believe that f1 has made them into a cool brand.

    2. So not taking into account the money he brings to the team in sponsorship (Hilfiger $50 million for example) and PR value to Mercedes and their sponsors and partners (£4.6 million in sales for a limited run of LH watches for IWC for example)?
      Like nearly everyone who earns a salary I think you will find he generates more than he costs.
      A very profitable 20 year investment for Mercedes I would imagine.

    3. Mercedes must be insane not to renew Hamilton to save a few bucks. I definitely think Mercedes needs Hamilton more than he needs Mercedes

      1. At this point, doesn’t Lewis want that 8th title more than more money? Not like he can just go to another team and win it there easily.

        1. he wants the 8th title, but he won’t do it for free

    4. Doesn’t look bad at all, unless one doesn’t understand what a return on investment is

  6. Àt least a £50M a year 3-year contract is coming his way wow. I’ve read somewhere a cool USD200M 3-year contract has been placed on the table for him to sign.. well that is a lot of money mate..

  7. There is clearly an impasse here since I can’t for one second believe that absolutely ZERO contract discussions have taken place. No responsible party (this applies to both MB and Lewis) would only start talking about contracts this late in the day since you are giving yourself less time to react to awkward demands and can be cornered more easily.

    Impasse could be on anything but I suspect it is probably be non-driving related (sponsorship commitments etc) since I suspect Lewis will find it harder (but not impossible) to leverage that MB absolutely NEED his talent to win given what Russell did.

  8. Ha, yeah, I guess there is no real need to rush it.

    I would think that finalizing this deal about the team structure / ownership and about Wolf staying was a bit of a precursor to sitting down with Lewis to iron out details on their deal.

    Surely Hamilton will be happy to see that they seem to at least have started working on the teams diversity strategy as well. And I guess signing Lewis up for a 40 million sum is easier to defend as a car company when you can argue that 2/3rds of it will not come from you but from the other owners!

  9. Not surprised.

    Hamilton needs to start negotiations afresh with the new owners after all.

    Earlier it was a matter of agreeing a deal with just 2 people – Merc and Toto – and 1 of them could drag the other one as it had 70% share.

    Now it is 3 parties all with equal stake. All of them need to be convinced for the contract.

    1. Well, Toto runs the company and I’m sure Mercedes have faith in him to make the right call. After all, they put him there and he’s delivered in spades. You can’t second guess your managers. And for what? A few million dollars when you’re asking history.

      1. Oops making history, sorry using my iPad.

  10. i think its getting a little tiring reading about this.. may be the press should stop asking them or printing them.. just let us know when you have something..

    the so called suspense is getting stale…

    on the contrary, why am i reading/commenting?.. lol

    1. yeah, i asked myself the same question haha

  11. Dave (@davewillisporter)
    18th December 2020, 18:45

    So, Toto increases his share slightly and commits to 3 more years as Team Principle and presumably still CEO.
    Daimler boss and Ineos boss both think Lewis is a goat.
    Team now run as a proper equal partnership.
    Lewis will sign at least two years with a possible third if the lifestyle is amenable.
    Sucks for all those saying Toto takes his orders from Daimler!
    For those still clinging onto the notion that Lewis will join another team he would be giving up a near lifetime appointment as Mercedes brand ambassador. Why would he do that? Look how long Mika Hakkinen did that for after retirement. He’d be nuts and it’s not gonna happen.
    I’m sticking with 2 yrs with an option for a third or 3 yrs straight. Then Toto will step back from racing operations but still have management input.

  12. Michael Counsell
    18th December 2020, 19:21

    I would imagine the main reason Lewis wouldn’t want to sign is Ineos. He wants to leave a legacy and use his position as world champion to highlight and influence social and environmental issues. It’s very difficult if you are employed by one of the biggest polluters (Ineos). Ineos will inevitably use Lewis to show they are a “good” company. I really think the best thing he can do is refuse to sign. I think he probably can’t do that publicly until his contract expires as explaining his reasoning would probably breach his contract. Then he’ll probably take a year out and return with Red Bull or Ferrari.

    1. Dave (@davewillisporter)
      19th December 2020, 15:56

      How many times do I have to read this take??? It’s NOT GOING TO HAPPEN!
      Firstly, Lewis will use his influence with Ineos to steer them towards sustainability. He will have that written into terms. Not only that but large petrochemicals have trended towards trying to clean up their image the last few years. Lewis provides an opportunity for Ineos.
      Secondly, he’s been backed by Mercedes since 13 and driven a Mercedes engine / PU every year of his F1 career. He’s loyal to the company. The guy literally has “Loyalty” tattood on his body.
      I mean know your people!
      He’s not going to drive a Ferrari or a “drinks company” car as he famously said of Redbull.
      Lastly like Mika Hakkinen, Lewis will be a brand ambassador for Mercedes long after his F1 career has ended and Mercedes will be eager to make sure of it. He will not walk away from that.
      So please, stop with this take!

  13. Plot twist: Lewis becomes a pay driver at Williams and spends his fortune and talent transforming them into the world champions by 2025?

  14. Settle it earlier. We already know 100% he’s continuing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

All comments are moderated. See the Comment Policy and FAQ for more.
If the person you're replying to is a registered user you can notify them of your reply using '@username'.