For months, Formula One fans have been spamming Mercedes’ social media accounts, demanding to know when the team planned to #AnnounceLewis for 2021, and the wait got over when the confirmation finally dropped on Monday, accompanied by a big surprise. According to ESPN, unlike Hamilton’s previous multi-year contracts, this deal was only for one year.
Technically, Hamilton has been out of contract since January 1 when his previous two-year deal lapsed, although there was very little concern that he would not continue this year.
It was never really in doubt that Hamilton would continue to drive for Mercedes this year. There were no spaces left at other teams and the best team on the grid was not going to shun its seven-time world champion.
Perhaps Hamilton could have turned his back on the sport entirely, but with a record-breaking eighth title up for grabs — and his own place in F1 history ahead of Michael Schumacher on seven championships — it would have been a remarkable decision.
Speaking via an online press conference on Monday, team principal Toto Wolff said “there was never a moment where we thought he wouldn’t sign and there was never a moment where he doubted [he would sign].”
So what was the long wait all about?
According to the sports news portal, negotiations started way later than Mercedes or Hamilton had planned. Initially, the two sides delayed talks due to the coronavirus pandemic, which condensed a 17-race schedule into six months and, due to social distancing measures, made it difficult to sit down face to face away from the circuit. What’s more, both sides trusted the other one wanted to continue in 2021, so as the season progressed there was no urgency to put pen to paper.
Both sides remained calm knowing a deal for 2021 was never in doubt, but committing to anything longer-term required consideration of a number of other factors that Wolff, who also caught COVID-19 in January, says were not simple to resolve in the time left on the table.
“We jointly agreed on a one-year deal,” Wolff said in an interview to the sports news portal. “First of all, there is a substantial regulation change in 2022 and we also want to see how the world develops, and the company.”
“On the other side, because we kept it very late, we wanted to discuss the contract at the end of the season between the Bahrain races and then obviously Lewis didn’t feel well and in the end we started our negotiation and conversation just before Christmas and it was important to get it done as soon as possible,” he further said. “In that respect, we thought let’s postpone the conversation about 2022 and onwards to a later stage in 2021.”