RACE DEBRIEF

    The wait is over - Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes have finally announced a new deal, with the seven-time reigning world champion signing a one-year contract with the team for 2021.

    In what had been a highly unusual situation, Hamilton had entered the year without a deal in place to race in 2021, though the 36-year-old Briton and Mercedes always insisted it was a matter of when, not if, a contract would be agreed.

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    Time was the crucial factor: the Covid-19 pandemic made it difficult to meet face-to-face, then Mercedes and Hamilton decided to hold off on talks to focus on the title, and then Hamilton tested positive for Covid-19 to delay things further.

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    Hamilton and Wolff will continue their partnership, with Hamilton heading into a ninth successive season with the Silver Arrows

    But at last, Hamilton and Mercedes boss Toto Wolff finalised the small details of the contract, paving the way to announce the new deal, around three weeks before the Silver Arrows reveal their 2021 challenger.

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    Mercedes say a significant part of the new agreement builds upon the joint commitment to greater diversity and inclusion in motorsport that was made last year by Hamilton and Mercedes. This will take the form of a joint charitable foundation, which will have the mission of supporting greater diversity and inclusion in all its forms in motorsport.

    “I am excited to be heading into my ninth season with my Mercedes team mates," said Hamilton. "Our team has achieved incredible things together and we look forward to building on our success even further, while continuously looking to improve, both on and off the track.

    “I’m equally determined to continue the journey we started to make motorsport more diverse for future generations and I am grateful that Mercedes has been extremely supportive of my call to address this issue. I’m proud to say we are taking that effort further this year by launching a foundation dedicated to diversity and inclusion in the sport. I am inspired by all that we can build together and can’t wait to get back on the track in March.”

    Reaction: Hamilton signs with Mercedes for 2021

    Hamilton will partner Valtteri Bottas, whose one-year deal extension was announced last August, for a fifth successive campaign. 2021, meanwhile, will represent Hamilton's ninth season with Mercedes.

    “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," said Wolff.

    "Together, we have decided to extend the sporting relationship for another season and to begin a longer-term project to take the next step in our shared commitment to greater diversity within our sport. Lewis’s competitive record stands alongside the best the sports world has ever seen, and he is a valued ambassador for our brand and our partners.

    "The story of Mercedes and Lewis has written itself into the history books of our sport over the past eight seasons, and we are hungry to compete and to add more chapters to it.”

    The confirmation of Hamilton’s deal means the 2021 F1 grid is now complete, with the Briton targeting an unprecedented eighth world championship – and what would be a seventh in eight years.