Wolff explains Hamilton’s one-year deal and dismisses ‘Verstappen clause’ rumour

2021 F1 season

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Mercedes team principal and CEO Toto Wolff has explained why Lewis Hamilton only extended his contract to drive for the team by a single season.

Wolff also dismissed claims Hamilton demanded a power of veto over who his team mate can be – referred to by some as a ‘Verstappen clause’ – and that he had demanded a share of the team’s earnings from Formula 1 because of the attention he brings to the sport.

Mercedes announced today the seven-times world champion had signed a new deal to continue driving for them. However, following three multi-year contract with the team, Hamilton has only signed a one-year contract extension for 2021.

Wolff said they “jointly agreed on a one-year deal” after delays to their discussions led them to postpone agreement on 2022 and beyond.

“First of all there is a substantial regulations change in 2022,” Wolff explained. “We also want to see how the world develops and the company.”

Their negotiations were disrupted by the late end to last season and Hamilton’s Covid-19 diagnosis in December.

“Because we kept it very late, we wanted to discuss the contract at the end of the season between the Bahrain races, and then Lewis obviously didn’t feel well. At the end we started out negotiation conversation just before Christmas.

“It was important to get it done as soon as possible and in that respect we thought let’s postpone the discussion about 2022 an onwards to a later stage in 2021.”

Despite the late timing of the agreement, Wolff said there was never any doubt on either side that they would agree a deal.

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“There are uncertainties in the world that affect the way the sport can operate that have an influence on our revenue, on TV monies, on sponsorship income,” he said. “Daimler and Mercedes are in a huge transformation towards electric mobility and that means investments. So we are living in a financial reality that is very different to what it was a few years ago.

“But having said that we are totally in line, Lewis and me and the wider group in Mercedes, about this situation. So there was never any discrepancy in opinion. It was just that we felt we’ve got to put signature on the 2021 contact because we need to get going and then find some time during 2021, earlier than this time around, to discuss the future.

“And it’s not only specifically to 2022 but also beyond and that is not something that we wanted to carve out via videoconferencing between Christmas and the end of January.”

Reports elsewhere claimed Hamilton had demanded the power of veto over Mercedes’ future choice of team mate, and that he pushed for a share of the team’s earnings from Formula 1’s revenues. Wolff rejected both rumours.

“On the specific clauses that were out there in the media, I don’t know where that came from because none of that is true,” he said.

“I actually read about this, I found it an interesting perspective, but the truth is there was not a second of discussion about any driver-specific clause. He has never asked for that in the last eight years and it’s a team decision.

“The other clause about a revenue split or revenue share… that rumour was baseless too, so none of that was ever part of our discussions.”

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58 comments on “Wolff explains Hamilton’s one-year deal and dismisses ‘Verstappen clause’ rumour”

  1. Let’s enjoy watching Lewis Hamilton for another year in Formula 1, before he goes Sir Diversity Foundation.

    1. Difficult to enjoy him unless you are fan of his. Its always more easier watching a great driver push to limits of the car and getting it to positions it shouldn’t get to than watching a great driver perform within himself to achieve everything he needs and more.

      1. “more easier”?

        You should have watched 2017, 2018 and 2019 then. Hamilton won plenty of races where he didn’t have the fastest car. For Mexico even the third fastest car.

        Plus check Turkey 2020. Also in the third fastest car for the track and circumstances. It might be boring that he wins by not spinning off like a loon, but still.

        1. Merc were the best car in 2017, 2018 and 2019.

          Ferrari only dominant in qualifying for part of the season in 2019.

          2017 and 2018 Vettel only had lead in the championship because Hamilton and Merc kept shooting themselves in the foot in the first half of each season. Bottas was getting race wins while Hamilton wasn’t.

          1. 2017 and 2018 Vettel only had lead in the championship because Hamilton and Merc kept shooting themselves in the foot in the first half of each season. Bottas was getting race wins while Hamilton wasn’t.

            At no point in 2017 or 2018 did Bottas have more wins in that given season than Hamilton. He didn’t get a single victory in the whole of 2018.

            That’s such an easily-checkable fact that I think we can just disregard any other claim you make.

          2. LOL!! Is that why everyone was scratching their heads, wondering where Ferrari got their early season 2019 pace from? Until the regulators caught up with them that is!!

            If Hamilton has been in that Ferrari for 2017 or 2018 – he’d still have those WC’s

        2. @f1osaurus

          “It might be boring that he wins by not spinning off like a loon, but still.”
          Like Germany 2019……..?

          “Plus check Turkey 2020.”
          You mean that race where he failed to qualify on pole position, despite driving the most dominant and all-round car in the history of this sport?
          That race where he repeatedly went off-track trying to pass Vettel despite having no reason whatsoever to pass Vettel until he realized he only needed to finish to become champ, and suddenly all the variables fell his way so he could easily cruise to a victory making full use of the most dominant and all-round car in the history of this sport?

          “You should have watched 2017, 2018 and 2019 then. Hamilton won plenty of races where he didn’t have the fastest car”
          Lol, his car was the fastest for every track, it’s only his incompetence that made the other cars look faster.
          Given his clueless teammate and the domination of his car, it’s a miracle he lost so many races.

          Come on KRXX, bring your A-game, not your Lewis-game.

          1. Like Germany 2019 ? Yes Verstappen there also spun off like a loon, but was lucky it spun back on track with less damage than he had in Turkey. Would have been another wasted win from him in a long line of wasted wins.

      2. Well, “Brumm55”, as @f1osaurus mentions, there was plenty of good racing, even excellent driving we got from Hamilton over the last few years to enjoy for everyone, provided they are interested in watching one of the best in a great car showing what such a driver can do with the car.

      3. You are a young viewer I see. You were not watching when Lewis was the most exciting thing on the grid for 8 years pushing cars above their limits. It’s time for him to sit back and collect now. Run from the front and plan his races like Alain Prost. I am enjoying it. I can only feel pity for those that are not.

        1. Do you enjoy watching someone sit back, collecting trophies while driving at 80% of his and 80% of car abilities?

  2. At the end we started out negotiation conversation just before Christmas.

    So it was a very short contract negotiation after all, with everything beyond 2022 to be discussed at a later date in other just to get the 2021 season going. Makes complete sense to me

    1. Yeah and Ferrari are still the fastest team in F1….

      1. @petebaldwin
        Are they? I thought it was Force India.

        1. Also known as 2019 mercedes!

  3. Stephen Higgins
    8th February 2021, 14:10

    I think both are wise to think in terms of one year blocks now.

    Hamilton is aging, and although he is still at the top of his game neither of them know how that will progress over 3 years.

    Then Hamilton is unsettled and may be finally feeling he’s not going to get much more out of it. I should think both parties are happy with a one year deal.

    Then for 2022, Mercedes can have the pick of the drivers and decide whether it is Russell plus Hamilton, Russell plus ANO – I go with Russell as there is a feel good factor as well as being someone who seems to fit with the attitudes of Mercedes. I suspect that a conservative view would be that Hamilton would be the safe pair of hands to guide Mercedes through the new regs.

    So I think Russell will be signed up early, as they will need to commit to a larger tub for him, then they’ll see what the vibes are with Mr H. With Hamilton not signed, other hopeful drivers will be reluctant to commit until he does – or some other nervous teams will offer great deals to overcome those aspirations. I don’t think Max will be on the Mercedes list – though I’m sure Mercedes would be happy to disrupt Red Bull by making overtures.

    1. I can’t help but think of Mansell to be honest.

      At 39 and 40 he took the F1 championship and the Indy Car Championship (back when it meant something) and he had a far rougher ride through F1 than Lewis has had. Just look at the damage to his back in Indy racing.

      Then you have Alonso still as formidable as ever.

      I think the younger fans of the certain young one forget that actually despite a certain web sit3s assertion, and the ever ‘yup is better crowd’ there are still many older drivers more than capable of operating at a far higher level than they realise.

      And good on them.

      Why should everyone simply move over because the young ones are in town.

      I may be biased, I raced into the early 40s and took my best championship wins then. 🤔😃

  4. I can’t wait for the F1 media to milk his next contract extension during the 2021/2022 off season

    1. That’s probably the main reason for the single year extension; milk the free press for all it’s worth.

  5. Maybe Hamilton has got bored with winning on track and wants the challenge of annual contract negotiation instead to keep motivated!! 😄

    On a more serious note, one year seems like to me (with no inside knowledge whatsoever) that one side didn’t want to commit and doesn’t know what they want so kicked the can down the road. Also I wonder if the contract gets backdated since I guess he wasn’t paid in January, given that drivers don’t do anything sponsor or driving related it is not like MB could claim they lost out.

    1. Ahah, that’s a fun one!

  6. I don’t think it makes much sense to forego on Verstappen if that’s a possibility for 2022 for Mercedes. So even if Hamilton would want such a clause, he wouldn’t get it. And if Hamilton put his foot down and said “it’s him or me” why would you not pick Verstappen?

    Let’s be honest, if you have the opportunity and pass on Verstappen, he will sign a multi-year deal elsewhere and you might have burned that bridge forever. And sure, while in the short term you might still have Hamilton for another year or two, that’s ultimately the most you’ll have. After that Hamilton is retired and you’re left with second best, are you not?

    Sure, Russell is there waiting in the wings, but you’re already replacing Bottas with Russell for 2022 and he doesn’t yet have Verstappen’s experience and who even knows if he’ll be at Verstappen’s level ultimately. The expectation is there, but the guarantee is not.

    1. Verstappen is really strong, but the current grid is also relatively good, obviously hamilton will be on a downward trajectory, and so will be alonso, but russel and leclerc are on an upward one, and I can’t imagine leclerc being too happy about ferrari’s current performance or russel about williams, so I don’t think mercedes, as long as they can keep producing at least a title contender, will lack options among strong drivers.

    2. @aiii

      I don’t think it makes much sense to forego on Verstappen if that’s a possibility for 2022 for Mercedes. So even if Hamilton would want such a clause, he wouldn’t get it. And if Hamilton put his foot down and said “it’s him or me” why would you not pick Verstappen?

      I’d have to agree with you. It’s a difficult decision, but there’s no doubt that Hamilton won’t be getting any quicker with every season, and Verstappen is only getting better. If Mercedes are genuinely thinking of a building a future with another driver (as they should), then Verstappen is the driver on top of their list.

  7. I don’t think this difficult to understand. Hamilton wanted a one year contract. It makes perfect sense: he can assess his options after a year with the new regulations for 2022, lots of potential other offers, and not too much problem for him personally to take a sabbatical year or leave Formula 1 for good on a high. Mercedes would want more assurances – it’s their style – and Hamilton taking them into the new era would have been a big assurance all round. I suspect their ideal scenario is Russell learning quickly alongside Hamilton for a year, training up to take over if and when need be. Or simply poach Verstappen. But many people underestimate how much the team looks to Hamilton as a guarantee for their overall performance. They might think another driver could do the same, but it’s always going to be better for them to have certainty going forward.
    Personally I think this is good. Some real chances for Formula 1 in 2022 and beyond to look a lot different.

    1. We have absolutely no idea who pushed for one year. If Lewis’s salary demands were sky high, Mercedes might only have agreed for one year.

      1. That’s the most likely option indeed. His salary demands conflicted with the developments in Daimler. The max was and will be 1 year extensions.

        1. Hamilton brings in a lot of commercial revenue too, far beyond other drivers right now.
          Assured commercial asset, assured Formula 1 racing asset: that’s what a commercial racing team wants. In your scenario, Hamilton wants money over the possibliity of determining his future racing conditions, rather than being tied to a team that may underperform from 2022 on. Why would he prefer that? The money he can make whatever. He can’t now know what Formula 1 will be like next year, nobody does. A one year contract keeps his options in play, even more so if he also has an option to extend the contract. Mercedes are left more exposed to risk. A 3 year contract would ensure Hamilton’s assistance in transitioning to the new regulations, whoever is alongside him. But hey, maybe you’re both right.

          1. @david-br, That’s assuming that Merc. are fully committed to running a team in F1 for 22 and beyond, as Toto said, “lots of investment in electrification”

          2. @hohum It’s a good point, I’m assuming a few more years, but Mercedes/Wolff haven’t been exactly dispelling the clouds of uncertainty.

    2. David BR as usual……WELL SAID.!!!!

      1. @samouri thanks! I may be completely wrong though :)

  8. I think one year makes sense, it allows both parties to minimize their risks and adjust to whatever happens this year.

    The pandemic has changed a lot and created uncertainty around things like the value of F1 and compensation. For example, it appears the executives at Daimler took a pay cut but deferred much of that compensation.

    By the end of the season things might look much different. Imagine how Hamilton would feel if he agreed to a 40% pay cut, but by the end of the year F1 advertising increased, auto sales rebounded, and executives had recovered 110% of their deferred compensation.

    Conversely, how would Daimler feel if they signed Hamilton for 50 million a year, and then F1 viewership tanked and the bottom fell out of car sales.

    I think in that context 1 year makes a lot of sense.

    1. @slotopen Maybe in retrospect it makes sense for both sides. However, the delay suggests that the sticking point was the contract length that one side is happier than the other (i.e. over it being one year).

    2. I think a one year deal smacks of compromise, guess we may never find out which side wanted more/less of either money or seasons. Gonna cause a lot of drivers who may be out of contract this year to pause and have a good look how a shake up at Merc for 22 might alter the driver market.

      1. Dave (@davewillisporter)
        8th February 2021, 16:53

        @f1johns

        I think a one year deal smacks of compromise

        And any other year was not a compromise?
        Big Ron had to pay Senna a million a race with no contract through the first few races. In retrospect he thought it would have been better to spend the money on the car and not let Williams run away with the championship.
        Negotiations are the epitome of compromise. Both sides do it to come to an arrangement in all cases.

        1. Yes of course negotiations end in a compromise but not always for both parties, however this seems to me a more forced compromise than previous contract agreements between Lewis & Merc. Just an opinion like most other posts on here, only Merc & Lewis know the whole 9 yards on this Dave.

  9. So Russell’s substitution is what took Mercedes so long?

  10. Merc really are going full electric aren’t they? Let’s enjoy the last Lewis-Merc combo season then.

  11. The multi-month contract means we can do it all again next year. Can’t imagine him driving for anyone else in F1.

    Glad it’s sorted, and the F1 news can move on!

  12. I think lewis wants to retire with 8 titles, 100+ wins and 100+ poles.

    Merc lineup 2022 Max and George.

    1. Dave (@davewillisporter)
      8th February 2021, 16:59

      @rvg013 in order of least likely to most likely 2022 line-up:

      George Max.
      Max Lewis
      Lewis Bottas
      George Lewis.

      George will not be displaced by any other driver, not even Max. Where there were doubts about other Merc young drivers there is none with George in Toto’s opinion.
      During a year of flux where victory is uncertain, do you really want to completely upheave a winning philosophy?

      George Lewis 2022. Heard it here first!

  13. Wolff is basically saying the topic is money.

    Being so late to agree likely means Hamilton forced their hand, but in turn they only gave him a 1-year deal. Probably suited Hamilton perfectly anyway. Then he can suss if the new iteration car will be as dominant, or if it’s better to leave on a high.

    1. @balue Amazingly we’re close to agreeing. Hamilton might have asked for a lot more cash as ‘compensation’ for being contracted to a team whose performance in 2022 and 2023 is an unknown, when actually his preference all along might have been for a 1 year contract (not what Mercedes want) and options open.

      1. @david-br Not compensation, just inflated sense of what he’s worth (and again proving his ‘sympathy’ for the laid off staff was just more fakery). I bet without buddy Wolff and the delay (also Wolff) it would have been different, but doubt Daimler and Ineos will go for that again.

  14. I find these two statements interesting I don’t believe they are referring to the cost of running the F1 team but the benefit of running an F1 team if there is a disconnect with the vehicles they are selling.

    “First of all there is a substantial regulations change in 2022,” Wolff explained. “We also want to see how the world develops and the company.”

    “There are uncertainties in the world that affect the way the sport can operate that have an influence on our revenue, on TV monies, on sponsorship income,” he said. “Daimler and Mercedes are in a huge transformation towards electric mobility and that means investments. So we are living in a financial reality that is very different to what it was a few years ago.

    1. @johnrkh I don’t think there is a disconnect between what F1 is doing and what Mercedes are planning for the future. I think that when he speaks of a transformation ‘towards electric mobility and that means investments’ that just means their financial reality is now different than it was a few years ago. I think that the future is very strong yet for the hybrid model. Hybrid is a form of electric mobility too. I’m sure Mercedes are looking at parts of their fleet becoming full electric, but I think they will also want to do much more with hybrid technology, as let’s face it, full electric is just not practical enough yet for way too many people. I’m sure some of the uncertainty over the next year or two even just stems from the unknown as of yet as to when the world can get back to something more normal post-pandemic. It is a guessing game right now as to how long it might take for the economy to bounce back. I think that is more in line with what TW is talking about. But I don’t thing Mercedes is, nor needs be, concerned over the direction F1 is going, particularly with regards to their pu formula, for I think it will be hybrid, but likely less complex and less expensive, and that will be just fine with Mercedes. Yes they will be focusing differently in terms of what they will do domestically with EVs, but I have no doubt hybrid technology, energy recovery technology, and alternate fuels will also be big areas for them too. I think for many entities like car manufacturers it is going to be a multi-faceted approach, and certainly full electric is only one part of the solution and imho will always only be one part and never the complete solution.

      1. @robbie Their decision will be based on the ability for F1 fulfil Mercedes marketing requirements after 2025. The same requirements that determine whether other OEMs join F1.
        The elephant in the room is the development of battery tech and the recent announcement by VW and QuantumScape of a a workable solid state battery could leave much of the Motor Racing authorities running F1 WEC WRC with a major headache.
        It’s going to take a little time for the everyone invovled to digest, but it will drastically change their plans for the future, but I think we both know which way the manufacturers will jump.

        1. @johnrkh Good stuff. I wasn’t aware of what was going on with solid state batteries so you have caused me to read a few articles about which you speak. I would say it sounds like this is a ways away yet, at least in the sense that I don’t think by 2025 manufacturers will either want F1 to go full electric or they’re out, so for the next let’s say decade at least I’m sure F1 will be in hybrids.

          Let’s see where this exciting work they’re doing on solid state batteries goes. Let’s see what the typical solid state battery car costs. Let’s imagine them really hitting a home run with this technology and suddenly there is a wholly viable option, from all aspects including cost to the consumer, and particularly practicality, over the ICE, and these new EV’s started being produced and selling like hot cakes. There still isn’t the infrastructure for countries to handle all these cars that would still need a recharging stop vs a gas filling stop. This just to say there sounds to be some exciting stuff with these batteries, but they aren’t going to make F1 as we know it obsolete for quite some time imho, nor draw Mercedes and other manufacturers away. But I can see them incorporating solid state batteries in their hybrid cars for the near future.

  15. I think it may have come to this, Hamilton’s first preference would have been to get a 3 year deal with lot of money (why not?), Mercedes first preference may have been less money as much as possible and a 1 or 2 year duration.

    Hamilton got the money part of his preference, Merc got the time part of his preference and us fans can start the silly season for 2022 right away. Will Lewis drive for Mercedes in 2022?

    1. So to save a few dollars that would be pocket change to the three owners, they are prepared to go into a new season with new regulations and rely on a journey man and a newbie to take them forward whilst Hamilton; and all his sponsors, rock up at their competitors?

    2. Hamilton will never go anywhere but Mercedes and everyone knows it. Instead they secure their future with Verstappen, arguably the best in the field, and Russell, proven to cope well with a top car. At the same time they reduce their main competitor, PLUS they save money. It’s really a no-brainer.

  16. I think this is a wise deal for both parties. For Hamilton- potentially seal the all time WDC record, retire on a high and pursue other avenues in life. Hamilton’s spoken about wanting a family etc and he’s obviously found a second calling with his fight for equality and human rights.

    For Mercedes- well the future. Hamilton isn’t getting younger, father time catches up to everyone, even the greatest of athletes in any given sport. With 2022 regulation change, rumours of Daimler wanting to leave F1- it just makes sense for everyone to keep their options open.

    Personally, even as a Hamilton fan, this doesn’t concern me. For anyone who’s followed him since junior formulae the talent has been there and he has given us more than enough special performances and memories to look back on. I’m content with the idea of Hamilton retiring at the end of the season, 8th WDC or not. He’s already made history even if the haters argue until they are blue in the face.

  17. I think this is a wise deal for both parties. For Hamilton- potentially seal the all time WDC record, retire on a high and pursue other avenues in life. Hamilton’s spoken about wanting a family etc and he’s obviously found a second calling with his fight for equality and human rights.

    For Mercedes- well the future. Hamilton isn’t getting younger, father time catches up to everyone, even the greatest of athletes in any given sport. With 2022 regulation change, rumours of Daimler wanting to leave F1- it just makes sense for everyone to keep their options open.

    Personally, even as a Hamilton fan, this doesn’t concern me. For anyone who’s followed him since junior formulae the talent has been there and he has given us more than enough special performances and memories to look back on. I’m content with the idea of Hamilton retiring at the end of the season, 8th WDC or not. He’s already made history even if the detractors argue until they are blue in the face.

  18. Only one year, but the problem is Ham or is it Merc? For all we know, MB might leave F1 at the end of 2021.

  19. Both keeping their options open. Mercedes can walk away from F1 or get Max in. Lewis can retire or maybe even finish his career at Ferrari. Also if Driver salary cap comes into play next year then it makes sense that Lewis will negotiate a new contract with less pay and therefore less sponsor commitments.
    I feel Lewis will negotiate one last one-year contract with Mercedes to check out the new F1 cars in 2022 and finish his career as an 8 or 9 time World Champion.

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