Although the news only came out on Monday that Lewis Hamilton had signed a new deal with Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One team – it was hardly much of a surprise. To believe that the 7-time F1 Drivers’ Champion would walk away from the chance of making history by breaking Michael Schumacher’s record of titles was very hard to believe. However, following the fact that his latest contract only includes the 2021 Formula One season, the jury is still out on what happens with new regulations. For Mercedes’ team Principal Toto Wolff, he has made clear that it will be up to Lewis Hamilton when it comes to what happens next – although there are several other options.
Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes-AMG Petronas has been a dream pairing since the popular Briton joined Mercedes in 2013 from McLaren. The moment of dominance started for the team in 2014 at the dawn of the hybrid turbo era and the Brackley-based outfit has not taken their foot off the pedal since. Having won seven F1 Constructors’ Championships in a row, no one has come close to the Silver Arrows. Due to the fact that Lewis Hamilton won six of the last seven F1 Drivers’ Championships, as successful as the car may be - there can be no doubting his talent.
Following the news back in December that Toto Wolff would be extending his tenure leading the most successful consecutive constructor in F1 – many predicted that Lewis Hamilton’s confirmation was not far behind. In reality, there were a couple of months between the two announcements. Also, what Monday’s news confirms is that there are still many options on the table for the team further down the line.
However, if Lewis Hamilton now goes on to win the 2021 Formula One season, claiming an 8th Drivers’ Championship in the process, it puts him in a powerful position for negotiating. As such, even before such an eventuality, Toto Wolff has made clear that the person to decide on 2022 and beyond will be Lewis Hamilton. Nevertheless, that does not mean that Mercedes is going to leave everything up to their supremely talented number one racer.
“Lewis needs to decide what his future holds for him, which is why I wouldn’t want to comment on where Lewis stands,” Toto Wolff told selected media on Monday after the announcement. “On the other side, the team needs to decide long term what we are going to do about drivers. Valtteri [Bottas] 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 we imagine in 2022 and onwards. Our first discussions are going to be with Valtteri and Lewis in respecting our values or loyalty and integrity but on the other side, the young drivers are the future and therefore we need to consider how we want to set ourselves up for the years beyond.”
Following the announcement of Lewis Hamilton’s services being retained by Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team for at least one more season, Markus Schäfer, Non-Executive Chairman announced:
“We’re very happy to keep the most successful F1 driver of the current era in the most successful F1 team of the current era. Lewis is not only an incredibly talented driver; he also works very hard for his achievements and is extremely hungry. He shares his passion for performance with the entire team which is why this collaboration has become so successful. But Lewis is also a warm-hearted personality who cares deeply about the world around him and wants to make an impact. As a company, Mercedes-Benz shares this sense of responsibility and is proud to commit to a new, joint foundation to improve diversity in motorsport. Opening the sport to under-represented groups will be important for its development in the future and we’re determined to make a positive impact.”
All of this shows how loved and appreciated Lewis Hamilton is by the team as a driver and as a brand. Therefore, it is for this reason that if they can produce a race winning car it makes sense to keep the status quo.
However, in the same way that the hybrid turbo era ended Red Bull Racing’s dominance, there is every expectation that the sweeping 2022 regulations will prove to do the same to Mercedes. For now though, Mercedes is the number one team and Lewis Hamilton is the number one driver. As to how long this proves to be the case – time will tell.
Finally, now that the 2021 Formula One grid has been finalised, we can enjoy the here and now and worry about the future later on…just like Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton have chosen to do.