Lewis Hamilton’s future in F1: what’s the latest from Mercedes world champions for 2021?

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Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes contract expires at year end

Lewis Hamilton, fresh out of his ninth race of the season to step on the verge of a seventh world title, caused a sensation in Imola on Sunday night when he unexpectedly suggested there was “no guarantee” that ‘he would still be in Formula 1 in 2021.

Yet at the same time, the Mercedes star driver also reiterated what he has generally otherwise said in a similar fashion for months: “I would like to be here next year. ”

Hamilton is likely to sign a new deal with Mercedes to stay on the grid and Toto Wolff, team manager and confidant of the world champion, said on Sunday he did not consider the 35-year-old moving away. sport at the end. next month.

But what’s behind the unusually long wait to get to the negotiating table? We are looking at the story so far …

What is Hamilton’s contractual situation?

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Lewis Hamilton responds about his future in F1 when asked about Toto Wolff’s race the following Sunday at Imola

Lewis Hamilton responds about his future in F1 when asked about Toto Wolff’s race the following Sunday at Imola

Hamilton’s current two-year Mercedes deal, which he signed in July 2018, expires at the end of December.

This means he is out of contract in just eight weeks, an unprecedented situation in Hamilton’s F1 career so late in a season.

But this is no ordinary season in no ordinary year …

What did Hamilton and Mercedes say about it?

Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas pour champagne on Toto Wolff after Mercedes wins seventh constructors' championship

Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas pour champagne on Toto Wolff after Mercedes wins seventh constructors’ championship

In a joint interview with Martin Brundle of Sky Sports F1 in February, when the world was very different, Hamilton and Wolff recalled their last contract negotiations in 2018. The discussions took place in Hamilton’s apartment in Monaco and lasted 10 hours as they struggled. on the terms of this existing pizza deal.

But any repetition of such informal but intense face-to-face negotiation this time around has been complicated by the impact and restrictions of the coronavirus pandemic.

Contract renewals were naturally not the top priority during the spring lockdown and, speaking in a interview with Karun Chandhok at Silverstone in August Once the season started, Hamilton said he felt uncomfortable discussing a new deal amid a pandemic that was having such a devastating impact on livelihoods around the world .

“I think especially in a time when people are losing their jobs, I usually feel a little embarrassed to sit down and talk about numbers and talk about a new contract when there are people who are not eating. no, there are people out there starving, there are people who lost their jobs during this pandemic. ”

Both sides have since cited the fast-paced nature of the shortened season as preventing sufficient time for talks to be found. The first nine races were held in the span of 11 weeks, although the schedule has normalized a bit since.

Either way, with Hamilton and his teammate Valtteri Bottas living out what Wolff has described as a “hermit” as out of the car lifestyles to make sure they limit potential exposure to Covid as much as possible- 19, face-to-face meetings have become anything but the norm.

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Sky F1’s Karun Chandhok examines the current state of the F1 driver market ahead of the 2021 season

Sky F1’s Karun Chandhok examines the current state of the F1 driver market ahead of the 2021 season

There were world tiles up for grabs too, of course,

Mercedes won a seventh constructors ‘championship in Italy on Sunday, but Hamilton is still at least one race away from securing a seventh drivers’ title to tie F1’s biggest record.

His first chance to do so comes at the Turkish GP on November 15, after which there are three rounds left until December 13 in Abu Dhabi.

At the Portuguese GP just over a week ago Hamilton said of his future for Mercedes: “I don’t think it’s over. I want to continue.

“I think once we get the job done and the stress of the bubble and everything goes, we can get to the comfortable or awkward position we need to be in and we’ll get there so we can continue. “

What might Hamilton’s considerations be?

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Exclusive interview with Lewis Hamilton on his future in F1 ahead of the Portuguese GP

Exclusive interview with Lewis Hamilton on his future in F1 ahead of the Portuguese GP

At 36 in January and nearing the end of his 14th season in F1, Hamilton’s next contract in the sport could be his last and so it’s understandable that he’s taking the time to weigh in and decide what to do with him. wants for the next few years. part of any new agreement. He certainly hinted at it.

Any multi-year deal would also drag Hamilton into the new era of F1 regulation from 2022, designed to close the field, another factor to consider.

Hamilton told Sky Sports in Portimao that “I don’t think I’m at my peak” and “I still want to keep running but I don’t know how long it will be.”

He added: “It’s brilliant [the future], whatever I decide to do, but it must also be aligned with time, it must be aligned with my values ​​and it must be aligned with what the team plans to do.

“All I can say is I plan to be here next year. “

What’s the impact of waiting to learn more about Wolff’s future?

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Mercedes boss Toto Wolff talks to Sky F1 about his future in F1 after overseeing record-breaking seventh consecutive constructors’ title for the team

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff talks to Sky F1 about his future in F1 after overseeing record-breaking seventh consecutive constructors’ title for the team

Much like how the career and success of Michael Schumacher has become so closely linked to Ross Brawn and Jean Todt, Hamilton and Wolff have established themselves as one of the most famous double-act driver-team managers in the world. history of sport.

Wolff, who oversaw his 100th win as team manager on Sunday, is evaluating his own future this year and he looks set to be on his way to taking on a revised role in a Mercedes squad that ‘he is co-owner, the Austrian mentioning potential titles as such executive chairman.

“I believe everyone has a certain lifespan in a role and I haven’t come to the end of mine,” Wolff said on Sunday, who also revealed he has felt “rejuvenated” this season since the lockdown. and that he certainly would not. get away from the Brackley team altogether.

“I think I can still contribute, but I have to think about the future.

“Raising someone, developing them in that role, is something that’s a fantastic challenge for me and that will be one of the next chapters. But you’ll see me for a while. ”

Speaking on Sunday, Hamilton spoke highly of Wolff’s qualities as a ‘leader’ but still clarified: ‘He won’t put on anyone who won’t be able to do the job, who won’t be up to the task. , who will not. be ready. He will find the right people. ”

When will Hamilton sign?

Lewis Hamilton has his first chance to win a seventh Turkish GP World Championship

Lewis Hamilton has his first chance to win a seventh Turkish GP World Championship

As Wolff and Mercedes know all too well after the sudden retirement of Nico Rosberg just after winning the world title (and four months after signing a new contract) in 2016, one can never be completely sure of what. whether in Formula 1.

But it seems implausible that this would lead to the same explosive result. Especially since Hamilton and Mercedes, who each stressed their loyalty to each other, are constantly rewriting the record books. This season, for all its complexities, has shown that the winning juggernaut is arguably more formidable than ever.

As Wolff noted following the six-time champion’s cryptic comments on Sunday night: “We want to continue this journey.

“Lewis and I and the whole team are not done. ”

Long-suffering Mercedes rivals, you suspect, also know it in the hopes that Hamilton will still be behind the wheel for the world champions in 2021 to lead the search for an eighth consecutive double.

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