Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Bahrain, 2020

Hamilton’s one-year deal shouldn’t excite those hoping he’ll retire soon

2021 F1 season

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After seven consecutive seasons of almost uninterrupted domination, it’s no surprise some are longing to see someone else besides Lewis Hamilton winning in Formula 1.

So yesterday’s news he will extend his contract to drive for Mercedes by just a single season – following a string of multi-year deals – prompted some to speculate this will be the seven-times champion’s final year in F1.

There has always been an element of wishful thinking on the part of Hamilton’s detractors about this. The cynical view holds that Hamilton knows the upcoming season is likely to be a continuation of the last one, he will have a competitive Mercedes underneath him and a record-breaking eighth world championship will be a straightforward affair, following which he can retire as Formula 1’s most successful driver ever, with a (likely literal) ton of wins and pole positions to his name.

This overlooks the fact Hamilton has consistently said throughout Mercedes’ most dominant phases that he’s eager for closer competition from their rivals, whether that’s Red Bull, Ferrari or – as he remarked most recently – McLaren.

However Hamilton is clearly nearer to the end of his career than its beginning. So, as the 2020 season dragged on with no news on his contract for the following year, speculation inevitably mounted over his future.

Was the extremely late conclusion to Hamilton’s contract talks a product of him wrestling with the question of whether he wants to keep on racing? Is he more motivated by his priorities away from the track, such as his passionate pursuit of diversity and concern for his impact on the environment, than racing into a 16th season in 2022?

Hamilton chalked up his 95th career win in Bahrain
Does he have doubts over Mercedes’ long-term commitment to F1 given the recent changes to the structure of their all-conquering team? Is the departure of Andy Cowell, who masterminded the V6 hybrid turbo power units responsible for so much of their success, making him unsure the team can sustain its dominance much longer?

Mercedes CEO and team principal Toto Wolff addressed questions over Hamilton’s future when he spoke to media including RaceFans in a video conference after the new, one-year deal was announced yesterday. Wolff characterised the long-running talks as a consequence of last year’s uniquely disrupted championship.

A key part of Hamilton’s new deal includes a joint commitment between driver and team to promote diversity and inclusion. This is something he has publicly urged organisations to do, demanding they “hold themselves accountable”.

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It’s significant both that this was one of the first points covered in their negotiations and that the impetus for the move came from no less a figure at Mercedes than Ola Kallenius, Daimler board chairman and head of Mercedes, who has known Hamilton since he was a teenage karting prodigy.

“The idea of the foundation – credit to where credit is due – came from Ola Kallenius when we discussed between Lewis, Ola and myself at the very beginning,” Wolff explained. “Lewis was enthusiastic about the idea. We are going to run it jointly.”

Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes W11 with new livery, 2020
Phone call from Hamilton led to Mercedes’ livery change
Mercedes responded quickly to Hamilton’s call for a public demonstration of its commitment to diversity last year which went far beyond just painting their cars black. It leaves no room for doubt the team shares Hamilton’s priorities and is taking real steps.

According to Wolff, the new commitment shows the parties are already thinking beyond this year. “We felt that making a real financial contribution to our diversity and equality project was an important statement,” he said.

“It felt the right thing to do and it shows our long-term commitment to each other because it is a multi-million investment into the foundation in which we are going to run jointly.

That leaves an obvious question: If Hamilton intends to remain at Mercedes for the longer-term, why has he only signed a one-year deal?

According to Wolff, this was not because Hamilton, seeking to maximise his earnings from potentially his final F1 contract, was asking for more money than Mercedes was willing to pay. “We respect that a sportsperson has a shelf life and that you do need to optimise the outcome whilst being active,” said Wolff. “But on the other side, Lewis has a global perspective of what is going on out there and he always recognised that.”

The delay in signing was because, having left their contract negotiations until late in 2020, they faced the unexpected disruptions of Hamilton contracting Covid-19 after the Bahrain Grand Prix. Wolff also caught the virus in January.

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“Him having Corona, both of us being away over the holiday period, me having Corona – in a way made it very difficult to sit down and have to plan our ‘kitchen talk’,” said Wolff.

Russell is eager to get back into a Mercedes
They therefore prioritised agreeing a deal for this year, and intend to turn their attention to 2022 and beyond sooner rather than later. “What was important was to get going 2021, to decide on the contribution to the charity and how we were trying to run it and then to not wait as long as we did this year to discuss 2022 and onwards.”

Extending his deal for a single season is a luxury Hamilton can afford as Mercedes is unlikely to make a swoop for one of his top rivals to replace him. Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen are locked into their current teams until 2024 and 2023 respectively.

Mercedes has George Russell waiting in the wings, and can have confidence in his ability to step up following his outstanding performance in the Sakhir Grand Prix, but Wolff made it clear the starting point when deciding its future driver line-up will be its current pairing.

“The team needs to decide long-term what we are going to do about drivers,” he said. “Valtteri and Lewis have our 100% commitment and loyalty for 2021. We will support them with everything we have.

“We will then look beyond this year and say what is the line-up that we imagine in 2022 and onwards? And our first discussions are going to with Valtteri and Lewis, respecting our values of loyalty and integrity. But on the other side, the young drivers are the future and therefore we need to consider how we how we want to set ourselves up for the years beyond.”

None of this definitively excludes the possibility of Hamilton deciding, for whatever reason, to hang up his helmet at the end of the year. But the mere fact he and Mercedes took a long time to sort out their deal for 2021 doesn’t necessarily point to it being their last year together.

Quotes: Dieter Rencken

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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...

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  • 60 comments on “Hamilton’s one-year deal shouldn’t excite those hoping he’ll retire soon”

    1. I sincerely hope he does not straight away retire after the 2021 season. I want to go watch him live one more time. Especially if the 2022 cars’ design will allow less diffficulty of overtaking. You can never be satisfied with watching on the track, even though you watched 4 races lol.

      1. The delay in signing was because, having left their contract negotiations until late in 2020, they faced the unexpected disruptions of Hamilton contracting Covid-19 after the Bahrain Grand Prix. Wolff also caught the virus in January

        Sounds like a very unlikely excuse. I guess it was hard to put the salary aspects on paper, regarding the dire situation Daimler, like all car manufacturers, are into.

    2. There has always been an element of wishful thinking on the part of Hamilton’s detractors about this.

      @KeithCollantine, I’ve got the feeling that you are feeding those detractors with putting him on an even higher pedestal ,a
      under an even brighter spotlight, than maybe he deserves.

      Comments like the above seem a bit incendiary (I would assume a detractor would want him beaten by another driver rather than as a champion).
      And why promote tweets that Hamilton held back on signing his deal to “secure promises on diversity”, whilst it seems here that such plans were proposed by the other party (it hardly seem contentious, or a reason to ‘hold out’).

      Why not just stick to reporting the facts and let the hyenas in the comment section fight it out.

      1. Especially since there is no reliable insider information that has been leaked, articles such as these are pure speculation.

      2. I hope Hamilton stays in F1. I’d love to see him take on a Verstappen, Leclerc, Ricciardo, Russell in the same equipment.

        Winning 5 championships in a row where your biggest rival was Bottas would be a hollow to end your career.

      3. @coldfly Exactly, but don’t forget this is RaceFans, and before it was F1 Fanatic.

      4. And of course you’ve read some of the hilarious theories for it only been a one-year deal?

        Note, how they nearly all come form the usual Hamilton knockers!!

        Of course, they’re entitled not to like him, even as a big fan of his who is a black Brit I find his BLM stance odious, but then let’s not get sensitive when a knowledgeable journalist calls the “detractors” out

        The truth is often far more boring than the wacky theories. And the truth is far more likely that a total of 6 weeks will have been lost due to them both having Covid. This means about half the time was available for negotiations and so they more or less ‘rolled on’ the existing deal and then will sit down properly during the summer

    3. Long drive Sir Lewis Hamilton! I see him going until he has a few grey hairs!

      1. I don’t think he will have grey hairs implanted.

      2. No-one is hoping he will retire soon. Typical media headline and the demise of this site has started a long time ago. What we do hope is that he doesnt get the best material again and again and again and again and again

    4. You don’t hold out for 6 months because you want a one year contract.

      If you look at what seats will be available in 2022 he doesn’t have anywhere to go but Mercedes.

      Leclerc is locked away for a long time, Sainz is only in his first season for Ferrari, and I don’t think Hamilton would want to risk his reputation against Leclerc.

      RBR are likely going to be a customer engine team. If they’re going to give $50 million to someone in 2022 it would be to Max not Hamilton anyway. He can only go there if Max leaves for Mercedes because he’s not going to risk his reputation head to head with Max especially at RBR.

      Aston Martin will never be quicker than Mercedes, Vettel in his first season, Stroll will never be dropped.

      McLaren got their big fish in Ricciardo for 2021, Norris is young and seems capable. Hamilton for Ricciardo would be a step backwards for McLaren and Hamilton wouldn’t risk his reputation against Ricciardo.

      That probably leaves Renault. Alonso seems like he’ll only be around for two seasons, we don’t know how much the time off will effect his speed, Ocon is second rate.

      I suppose Alonso vs Hamilton in 2022 could be possible especially if Alonso doesn’t look as though he’s the same Alonso anymore. But would Renault pay the kind of money Hamilton would demand (more so if Alonso is there), and would they want the two of them in the same team after what happened in 2007. Or maybe they get rid of Alonso a year early if he’s not up to it and make an offer to Hamilton.

      Would you really go to a team like Renault to bring them back to glory at the tail end of your career. It’s not exactly Ferrari or even McLaren. 8 seasons of only being challenged by the likes of Rosberg and Bottas must dull your ability some what. How would he go in a season where he’s routinely starting on the 3rd or 4th row and having to fight his way in traffic on the first lap.

      In the hybrid era there have been 71 Merc front row lockouts (only 15 Ferrari front row lock outs when Schumacher won his 5 championships).

      1. And you know that you are carrying out a fake comparison given the requirement to qualify with race fuel loads during Michael’s era – but that will almost certainly trigger your overly protectionist reaction to any criticism of Michael, which is to present him as impossibly perfect.

        Why don’t you prove me wrong and show us that you can offer objective criticism of Michael, and tell us where you think he was flawed or failed to maximize his opportunities? He definitely had some sub-par seasons, despite your protestations to the contrary – or is that too heretical for you to cope with?

        1. And you know that you are carrying out a fake comparison given the requirement to qualify with race fuel loads during Michael’s era

          Wrong.

          2000-02 was normal low fuel qualifying and Ferrari had 9 front row lockouts.

          2003-04 was qualifying with race fuel and Ferrari had 6 front row lockouts.

          Proportionately exactly the same.

          1. And that proves what?!

          2. Let be honest! Did you expect a former 7 WDC would make come back in 2010 as good as a laughing stock?

      2. Agree. He’s 36, most likely thinking about retirement, hence the 1-year contract.

      3. Just to add my 2 scents.

        I think after Hamilton lands his 8th Championship he’ll likely retire. He’ll do the sporting thing of leaving, having surpassed the record. He’ll do a Rosberg, retiring leaving something for the next generation of drivers to best.

        I haven’t figure out the 2022 challenges but i suspect another team possibly redbull, will have enough of an handle on the new specs to come out ahead of the game, the way Mercedes did with the hybred era of cars.

        Watch this space folks i dont think this story is over.

    5. A championship in the 2022 racecar could trigger Lewis to step aside. Win three championships in three successive new generations of Grand Prix machines has never been done. That just might be the icing on the cake of his own mark in Grand Prix history. Then retire young, richer than spit, and can still walk in his own two feet.
      Will that be enough for all the haters? Or will they just continue to be soooo ignorant about what this guy is doing. To not get it blows my mind. Just what in the hell else can Lewis do to win all fans over?? Look he has done his part so what excuses will haters seek to justify their own loonacy?
      If you are a Lewis Hamilton hater then you deserve to watch him get #8 this season. Then enjoy #9 and suffer as you will for your hatred is so bizzare so pitiful. This guy does things in racecars few ever do and does it all the time. How do you hate that unless you are a sorry loser yourself supporting nobody racers. Watch one race opened eyed and watch the advantages of this Mercedes juggernaut when Lewis is behind the wheel. I LOVE what Lewis is doing to his competition. Crush then rub their noses in it. I think this so cool to be able to say I saw Hamilton race. I saw the others try. I saw the others fall behind and their fan base grow into HAMhaters.

      1. My advice would be to stop worrying about what ‘haters’ think and do what makes you happy.

    6. You don’t think Mercedes has a viable challenger already to go? You think Max has a title ready for the picking? You think Seb will win at all in the rebranded copycat surprise of 2020? You think Gasly will get a P1 in 2021? You think Pirelli tires will improve from their mighty stupid display they offered last season? I think four teams will fight it out in 2022. Fewer wins by each team too. So in the end Lewis wins the title again by slimmer margins than in the past. 2022 will be closer.

    7. Agree. I hope he joins VET at AM for 2022.

    8. Tom Brady still plays well at age 43. No reason Lewis can’t race for another 5 years. 10 WDCs are well within his abilities.

      1. @greenflag
        It’s not the age that most people are complaining about, except for Lewis’s fans. It’s the fact that he and Toto Wolff are making sure that he will not be challenged as long as he is in that rocketship Mercedes. If you want to be considered the undisputed GOAT in any sport, you have to compete against the best and beat them on equal terms. This year Brady once again has come on top against Pat Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers the two best QBs in NFL which deserves nothing but admiration. I didn’t believe that was possible even though I’m a massive TB fan.

        On the other hand, you can see Anthony Joshua is getting the same amount of criticism or even more than Hamilton in boxing despite having multiple belts/championships and that is because it become absolutely clear that he is hiding behind outrageous demands in order to avoid fighting Wilder and especially Fury.

        1. Funny, when I look at Joshua I see Max and Charles both hiding behind long term contracts, They both pretty much knew before they signed when Hams next contract was due, but oh dear look at us, we are both locked into long term contracts. Shame we made ourselves unavailable. And opps, we are not available next year either .
          As for Brady, I expect his detractors are already saying the same as Hamilton’s when he went to Mercedes and won. ‘Everyone could see they were gong to be a winning team’.

          1. Verstappen and Leclerc would happily take that 2nd Mercedes seat, even up against Hamilton. Any driver would. It’s the only one that would give them a shot at fighting for a title. Worst case scenario for Max and Charles, you win 5-6 races a season and come 2nd in the championship.

    9. our values of loyalty and integrity

      This shows again Wolff is full of it as everyone obviously know that he’s been consistently been given Bottas one-year contracts, so it only proves that for Wolff he doesn’t really exist, as what he is saying is in regards to Hamilton only.

      But Wolff’s loyalty to Hamilton is misplaced, as obviously Hamilton will have no interest to help continued success with a Verstappen or similar and be directly compared, so will likely maneuver to where Mercedes is left late with a replacement and not able to sign the best one, just like could easily have happened this year.

      1. Dont you ever go on…

        1. His last contract was for two years?

          That’s why he is driving this year…

          I mean really?

        2. @tonymansell No you do. Just like here now.

    10. Let Hamilton stay. Just retire the car.

    11. This article doesn’t nearly prove its point as the lengthy time it took to sort a deal could just as easily speak of the opposite, and it’s ignored how it was for only for 1 year, which very much leaves retirement as more likely than not.

    12. The article says a lot, without actually shedding any great light on why this may not be his last season. It is simply a rehash of old information and doesn’t bring anything new information to the table.

    13. I’m a Hamilton fan, not a detractor, but I’m hoping this is the last year of the Hamilton-Mercedes era too. Obviously I mean their dominance as a partnership, not the fact that they’re a ‘unit’. However, since I want to change, I’d rather Hamilton moves to another team rather than see a decline of that partnership or Hamilton leave the sport when he’s still clearly at a peak. Few drivers have had success at multiple teams. Ideally a move to Ferrari or Red Bull, or another near-the-front team, would allow us to see a more scrappy Hamilton in the good sense – having to fight more for points and wins alongside the other talent now on the grid.

      1. Well the last time someone before Hamilton won WDCs with two different teams was in 2000 when MS won his first Ferrari championship. 20 years ago; so not that common.
        So when was the last time someone won with three different teams? Piquet in 87; 33 years ago?

        1. AllTheCoolNamesWereTaken
          9th February 2021, 18:48

          Piquet only won with two different teams: Brabham (twice) and Williams (once).

          Please, someone correct me if I’m wrong – but I can’t think of any driver other than Fangio who won championships with three different teams. Of course, Fangio then went to win with a fourth team as well.

          1. AllTheCoolNamesWereTaken
            9th February 2021, 18:51

            Fangio then went to win with a fourth team as well

            That was supposed to be, “went on to win”.

        2. @Ian I meant multiple in the sense of 3+ and was actually thinking of Fangio :)
          I mean, aiming that high. Hamilton has the kind of talent that can adapt to any kind of car, really. That’s why I’d like to see him finish his career elsewhere, with another challenge, even without Mercedes engines. No I don’t think it’s likely, sadly.

          1. Can’t see it. However they dress it up Hamilton is the long term Brand Ambassador for Mercedes, and I can’t see him in another teams colours whilst fulfilling that role.
            To me its either Ham retires with WDC Bottas staying on; or 8 x WDC Hamilton is joined by Russell.

            1. That’s indeed what it looks like. If so, I really hope for the second scenario. The worst would be scenario 3: BOT and HAM for 2022+.

            2. Yeah they really need to get GR there for 2022 onwards for LH to help teach him.

      2. I am a fan but I hope he leaves or clears off elsewhere where I can denigrate his every move.

        Fans like you? Who needs none fans?

        1. I know what your saying but he has already done that he went to a mid field team and everyone is upset because it became a juggernaut.

          I just do not see what he did wrong.

          If he went to Ferrari and top level team for many many years and got similar I am sure all his fans, those that laughed when he went to Mercedes, would be saying exactly the same now.

    14. 1yr, same as Bottas…. I think that he is just covering that fact in his contract… He is getting old and he already peaked ~2 yr ago.

    15. Craziest theory of all: Hamilton in red.
      If he were to move to Ferrari at the perfect time, he could do what Vettel and Alonso were unable to.
      Being an F1 champion for Ferrari is something uniquely special.

      1. @x1znet I have to admit, I’d turn into a Ferrari supporter overnight :oP

      2. @x1znet Unfortunately, it makes no sense for Hamilton whatsoever. Or for Ferrari to some extent. Ferrari have their F1 star in Leclerc, with whom they can continue (as long as they are successful) for decades.

    16. At Hamilton’s age a one-year deal makes sense for him, though it puts Mercedes in an awkward position with the new rules for 2022 if he decides this is to be his final year in F1. I guess in that circumstance they would grant Bottas a(nother) extension for continuity’s sake.

      I do think Hamilton will be gone sooner rather than later though. There is clearly much he wants to achieve outside of F1, and he is unlikely to want to stay in the sport once age-related decline starts to catch up with him, unlike (say) Schumacher or Raikkonen.

      1. Hmm age related decline

        Have you been reading F1 stats lately?

        That site seems unable to appreciate that there have been world champions far older than LH with a much rougher early ride with many injuries – far in excess of LH has endured thankfully – in perfectly competitive years. And then gone on to rule the entire sphere of motorsport at 40…

        There is no reason to assume age will reduce his abilities at this point.

        Just his interest

        And if he reads these boards lately I can see that being a bigger issue…

    17. Imho LH will be staying in F1 at Mercedes through 2023 at least.

      But I did chuckle a bit at the CL and Max are ‘locked in’ to their respective teams until 2024 and 2023 respectively. Is their any such thing? Of course they have contracts but as we have seen before and most recently with Perez, contracts can be bought out in a heartbeat, and as well if a driver decides for some reason that he no longer wants to race for a team in spite of a contract, they can’t very well force him.

      Not saying any of this as suggestions of what might happen at Mercedes after this season (with VB particularly) but just that contracts only go so far.

    18. These comment boards have all devolved into the same thing. No matter what the content of the article the same people show with their worn out arguments and tired dream scenarios. All in an effort to avoid the reality that they’re forced to contend with. They must feel like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day.

    19. If he wins at least a race this year and then retires, he’ll be the only driver to have won at least a race in every season.

    20. The 2022 season is still a big question mark and I don’t believe He will be willing to race anywhere if He doesn’t have another effortless WDC guaranteed.

      1. He’s on a hiding to nothing at Ferrari up against Leclerc, same at RBR against Verstappen, same at McLaren against Ricciardo.

        Wherever he goes he’ll be wanting a Rosberg/Bottas level teammate.

        That seems out of the question at the top teams.

        I suppose Aston Martin is a possibility because you’d be pretty confident of beating Vettel, but I couldn’t see them dropping Stroll. Vettel is there to mentor Stroll in a way.

    21. I’m one of those who don’t think hamilton is the best driver ever or even close, and I don’t hope he retires after this year ofc, what I hope is a fair challenge with competitive ferraris, red bulls or whatever else can challenge mercedes.

    22. On the contrary to many comments above, I think this situation suits Mercedes more than Hamilton. At Hamilton’s age and his wage, you can see a solid ship like Mercedes wouldn’t want to lock into a future where they don’t have some fluidity. I don’t think anyone is questioning Lewis’ abilities to deliver but life changes as you get older. We saw that with Schumacher when Alonso started to rival him, it was at a time of his life where he didn’t think the fight and the sacrifices weren’t worth it anymore. I think at this point in Lewis’ career and in Mercedes’ plans, more than a year long commitment is too much to ask for both parties. Perhaps together they could succeed for another 5 seasons or perhaps Lewis wouldn’t have the same fire in him in 2022 and loses the championship which he could have easily won if he had the same enthusiasm as 2020…

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