The most dominant team in F1 could have put any of a half-dozen other drivers in Lewis Hamilton’s seat to remain competitive. But “competitive” doesn’t cut it for one of Formula 1’s most free-spending outfits. So, despite protracted negotiations indicating otherwise, there was no way that Mercedes would let him leave.
Hamilton has established that he is the best driver alive. Mercedes could not risk having him go elsewhere and win, which would suggest a decade of the team’s success has been more about the man than the machine.
Hamilton will likely drive for Mercedes until he’s ready to retire. Motorsports fans may now have some clarity about when that will happen – and it’s probably going to be sooner than most imagined.
Lewis Hamilton is poised to make Formula 1 history in 2021
Internationally renowned driver Lewis Hamilton has already achieved everything there is to accomplish in a single Formula 1 race or season on the most glamorous sports circuit in the world. There are only career superlatives remaining. Even then, it comes down to two remaining feats for Hamilton, each breaking a record set by Michael Schumacher.
Hamilton has already tied Schumacher’s mark of seven World Driving Championships, accomplished between 1994 and 2004. Hamilton recorded his seventh last season by winning 11 races for the third straight year.
Schumacher’s other multi-season record in Formula 1 is the five straight championships he won beginning in 2000. Hamilton is riding a streak of four straight titles heading into the 2021 season, tentatively set to begin March 28 in Bahrain. Matching the feat is within reasonable reach, but Hamilton’s new contract suggests that breaking it might not be his goal.
Mercedes has finalized its driver lineup
The Mercedes announcement this week that Lewis Hamilton will continue driving for the world’s leading Formula 1 team tried putting a positive spin on it. But there clearly were problems with the negotiations while other teams were firming up their lineups.
At the conclusion of the pandemic-scrambled 2020 season, Red Bull snapped up Sergio Perez, who had become a hot name. Aston Martin jumped at the chance to bring in Sebastian Vettel following his breakup with Scuderia Ferrari, which turned to Carlos Sainz. McLaren replaced Sainz with Daniel Ricciardo, and Alpine lured 2005 and ’06 series champion Fernando Alonso.
Meanwhile, Mercedes went months technically having an opening for a driver alongside Valtteri Bottas because Hamilton had not signed a new contract. That changed with the announcement by Mercedes that Hamilton will be back for his ninth season with the team.
“We have always been aligned with Lewis that we would continue, but the very unusual year we had in 2020 meant it took some time to finish the process,” team CEO Toto Wolff said, according to ESPN.
Still, every other team was able to place its house in order long before the Mercedes announcement, and Hamilton had never waited this long to re-up.
How old is Lewis Hamilton?
Based on his Formula 1 driving record, age has definitely not been catching up to Lewis Hamilton. Still, the elite British driver turned 36 years old last month. And, as noted, the little that is left for him to accomplish in rounding out his legacy is easily achievable.
That is why Hamilton’s contract with the Mercedes F1 team is rather telling: Hamilton is reported to have signed on for only one more year. It’s the first time that he has worked without a multi-year deal since arriving in 2013.
The F1 Insider website suggested that his salary will remain at approximately $48 million and that an option year also exists. But it’s not clear whether that option belongs to Hamilton or Mercedes.
That sounds suspiciously like Hamilton will definitely retire no later than the end of the 2022 season. Provided he wraps up his eighth championship to break the tie with Michael Schumacher, it could come this fall.