However, not having Hamilton on the grid this year may not be the worst-case scenario for Mercedes or Formula 1.
I can hear the incredulous comments at such a remark – how can you suggest that Hamilton’s departure would be a good thing? Why would you say that? Don’t you know Sir Lewis is a British and world sports icon?
Well listen to me.
It’s impossible to know what’s going on behind closed doors in a team, certainly when it comes to contract negotiations, and when only two people are involved, as is the case with Hamilton and Toto Wolff. It is certainly possible that the discussions have progressed well, contrary to information published in the tabloids.
After clinching his seventh Turkish Grand Prix title last year, Wolff said – with a smile – that retaining Hamilton’s services had become much more expensive, an obvious problem for Mercedes.
Of course, Hamilton’s marketing potential softens that blow, but on the horizon is the likely implementation from 2023 of a driver salary cap that limits spending on a match to $ 30 million. This will not have escaped the attention of the German automaker.
It is understood that Hamilton earned that figure alone as part of his previous contract with the team.
Lucky for Wolff, there is a solution – George Russell.
The Williams driver shone in his appearance as a substitute for Hamilton at the Sakhir Grand Prix, qualifying just 0.026 seconds behind Valtteri Bottas in a car he does not fit in, wearing boots that are too small in size and that he only drove for the first time this weekend. .
With a reported annual salary of £ 675,000, it’s easy to see why Mercedes may find the 22-year-old more attractive.
While Mercedes and Hamilton are still expected to come to a deal, Russell’s pace will have placed an ace in Wolff’s hands at the negotiating table.
Another point is that Hamilton just turned 36. With Fernando Alonso returning this year he will be the third oldest driver on the grid behind only the Spaniard and Kimi Raikkonen.
Hamilton was only a year younger than Michael Schumacher when the German announced his first retirement from F1. At this point, it seemed inconceivable that the sport could go on without his name, but he did.
In 2006, Schumacher was still a consistent winner of the race and, although Fernando Alonso won the ’05 and ’06 titles, the German remained a force to be reckoned with.
As I write now, for many fans of the sport, F1 without Hamilton is just as impossible to imagine, but with Russell, Max Verstappen, Carlos Sainz, Charles Leclerc and Lando Norris emerging as potential champions of the future, it looks really exciting. .
Now I’m not suggesting that any of these drivers could beat Hamilton on the track, but the Briton has a growing number of interests and plans outside of F1 and may decide that is where his priorities lie. .
F1 gave Hamilton a platform on which to show his support for causes such as Black Lives Matter and raise awareness of global issues, but he arguably reached a point where his voice would still be heard outside the paddock.
That being said, regulation 2022 could level the playing field, strip Mercedes of its dominance and offer Hamilton a challenge from any of the above drivers. Who doesn’t want to see this?
Come back to his age, and it’s impossible not to compare Hamilton to seven-time MotoGP class champion Valentino Rossi.
Rossi, now 41, last won a title in 2009 and is a prime example of a superstar name who didn’t know when to score his career.
Like Hamilton, Rossi is the main name of the sport. He is the most successful, is considered by many to be the greatest of all time, and is the most marketable personality.
Rossi, however, hasn’t won a race for over three years. Beneath the veneer of success, this is a fact that often remains unspoken.
As Hamilton continues to win his legacy will continue to grow, but he needs to know when enough is enough and it is possible, although unlikely, could be that moment and he will retire while still in the game. peak of his art.
Weighing the arguments, if Mercedes were unable to strike a new deal with Hamilton, the automaker would save a lot of money, have a cheaper race-ready replacement for Russell, and a proven car that won the race and is expected to stay the same. classroom. ground this year.
The negatives, which are surprisingly few in number, all surround Hamilton’s marketing value and, while Russell was replacing his compatriot and being successful from the start, it’s not something that can be quickly recovered.
It seems like, as always, the decision will be based on the money but, as you can see, it wouldn’t be the worst case scenario for Mercedes if another deal can’t be made.
It would be a new start for the team, looking to the future.