‘There are many questions still to be answered’ – Hamilton explains delay in Mercedes contract talks
Lewis Hamilton’s lack of putting pen to paper on a new Mercedes deal for 2021 has been a source of paddock intrigue throughout this season, but speaking ahead of the Portuguese Grand Prix, the six-time World Champion opened up on the complicated factors behind the delay.
As a driver who’s a near-certainty to finish this season as the most successful in F1 history in terms of victories – with the Briton having equalled Michael Schumacher’s record of 91 wins last time out at the Nurburgring – and very possibly as a seven-time champion to boot, Hamilton’s market value, in normal times, would be at or near its peak.
But speaking in Portimao, he revealed the challenges of trying to negotiate a new contract during the Covid-19 pandemic, with a team backed by a multinational automotive manufacturer, and with Hamilton into the latter stages of his career for good measure.
“It's very relevant, I would say, in terms of where the times are,” said Hamilton of the current global situation’s effect on the delay. “I haven't made any decisions. I do want to stay and I think, when we do sit down – normally, it's been three-year periods, but of course, we're in a different time.
“I think if you look short-term, you could say that there's going to be companies and businesses that are [struggling] during this time. Mercedes are, I would say, on the climb back. I think they're now in a much better place, but everyone's had a big hit this year.”
Hamilton also posed the rhetorical question of whether he would want to take another three-year deal with Mercedes that took his career up to the end of 2023 – in what would be his 17th season in the sport – although he conceded that excitement about the 2022 aerodynamic regulations was piquing his interest.
“Do I want to continue for three years is also a question,” he said. “There are many, many questions still to be answered. We're also going into a new era of car in 2022, so it kind of excites me what could happen in 2022 in terms of what the cars are like.
“These are all things that we will naturally speak about, but I think I've earned the position to be able to stay for a decent amount of time, so time will tell. I can't really say too much more. Hopefully you'll hear something in the next couple of months.
"At some stage, I guess we have to sit down and have the conversation but it's not a priority right now. Getting the job done this year, for me personally, is the priority. That's what I'm solely focused on right now.”
Meanwhile, although Hamilton said signing a new deal with Mercedes was “probably” a formality, he went on to say that he wasn’t in talks with any other teams – while adding that he felt he and Team Principal Toto Wolff had more to achieve together in Formula 1.
“I haven't spoken to anybody else and I don't plan to,” said Hamilton. “At some stage, Toto and I will sit down and work out our path moving forward. We've achieved quite a lot together – it's quite remarkable what we've done together, I think, over these years. And we're still not done.”