Feature F1 Unlocked
PADDOCK INSIDER: Why Mercedes opted to stick with Lewis Hamilton and George Russell
Just a few hours into Italian Grand Prix media day, in rival Ferrari’s backyard, Mercedes dropped the news the Formula 1 paddock has long been expecting – Lewis Hamilton has signed a new deal to race on with the team beyond the end of the season – and that his team mate George Russell would be sticking around too.
F1 Correspondent Lawrence Barretto explains why the Silver Arrows opted to stick rather than twist.
Hamilton and Mercedes’ story not yet finished
It's been clear for a long time that Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes have unfinished business together in Formula 1, so it was a case of when, not if, they would announce a continuation together beyond the end of this season.
Both Mercedes boss Toto Wolff and Hamilton have been very relaxed about the fact discussions have taken some time. Key terms – including money and length of the contract – were agreed some time ago. It was then down to the little details, “trivial things” as Wolff described them, that was holding up both putting pen to paper.
But ahead of this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix, when the paddock chatter on Thursday morning was centred on Ferrari, who are celebrating their DNA with a new livery among other things at their home race, and Alfa Romeo’s stunning one-off Monza livery – plus the news Liam Lawson will stand-in for Daniel Ricciardo as long as is required while the Australian recovers, Mercedes got in on their act with confirmation Hamilton was staying.
The Briton will embark on his 12th and 13th season with Mercedes holding complete confidence that, not only does he believe he still has what it takes to secure a record eighth world title, but he thinks Mercedes can deliver the machinery needed to catch and overhaul reigning world champions Red Bull.
Hamilton still has the hunger to race on into his 40s – Hamilton turns 40 in January 2025 – and is keen to continue to put the long hours in, both physically and mentally, to be able to compete at the highest level.
Mercedes can see Hamilton is still operating at the peak of his powers. They’ve seen enough from what he’s delivered last season and this year with a car that is off the pace to know that should they give him the cockpit to deliver, he will get the job done.
There’s understood to be an incredible atmosphere inside the team right now. They know they are way off where they want to be, but they firmly believe they have the people and resources to get back to where they were – eight-time undefeated constructors’ champions.
So, sticking together made complete sense for both parties.
Russell delivers on expectation
Mercedes knew what they were getting when they made Russell a permanent member of the team, following his stunning super sub performance for Lewis Hamilton in Bahrain in 2020 – but he still had to show he had what it takes to deliver consistently.
And he’s done just that, taking his maiden pole in Hungary and maiden victory in Brazil to cap a cracking first season with the team in 2022 to finish two places ahead of Hamilton in the drivers’ standings.
He’s found life tougher this year, with just one podium to show for his efforts to sit three places behind Hamilton in the drivers’ standings – but he’s ultimately proved to the team that he’s continuing to improve as a driver and that he has plenty more to come.
Speak to those inside the team and they’ll tell you Russell has settled into the team so quickly, and it feels like he’s been there for years. He’s consistently quick, gives great feedback and is a good fit for the brand.
Senior management have utter trust in Russell. They set him a long list of targets – win F3 at the first attempt, win F2 at the first attempt, deliver at Williams – and he’s never let them down. He also trusts that if he does a good job, they will continue to back him and help him achieve his goal of winning the world championship.
They believe he’s one of the best young drivers on the grid right now and, at 25, has at least a decade – maybe even 15/20 years – left in the sport. When Hamilton retires, they want Russell to take the lead.
The “long-term” deal he signed for 2022 has thus been extended to include what will be a minimum of a four-year stay with the Silver Arrows – both his and Hamilton’s deals expiring at the same time.
Now Mercedes have got their drivers sorted – they can focus on their next challenge, delivering the fastest car on the grid.