There’s a strong sense of déjà vu here. Though it appears Lewis Hamilton’s new contract with Mercedes is now just a matter of time.
TJ13 has been critical of Mercedes in their handling of this matter, given never before has such a saga played out in public over any other Formula One driver contract extension.
It is normative for an employer or organisation wishing to secure the services of a prized individual, to ensure they get the deal over the line before another party has the opportunity to steal this individual from under their noses.
We have been hearing for some time the matter is now done. Lewis claimed “99.6% done” during the Malaysian GP weekend. Yet no announcement has been forthcoming and naturally questions arise as to what the sticking points are to prevent such a public embarrassment for Mercedes being resolved.
The most recent suggestion is that last minute, Lewis has asked for number one status as driver, though today Toto Wolff dismissed this notion today.
“No, it is not the case, and he wouldn’t ask for that clause because it’s not what we do and I think he appreciates how we manage the team, giving both drivers equal status,” Wolff told Sky Sports News.
“It is down to the detail. We have discussed and negotiated for a long time. We have sorted out the main terms since a couple of months already, and it’s just a bit of ping pong between the lawyers and it is the normal process.
“I would really wish to sort it out within the next couple of days or weeks without putting ourselves under pressure because this is a great relationship and we want to win races.”
Whilst Lewis was handling the negotiations, TJ13 was informed directly by the team that it was difficult to move the matter forward, due to Lewis off season holidays and personal schedule in and around the winter testing.
This is understandable, but the matter has now been with the lawyers for weeks. The legal advisors to both parties are on hand pretty much 24/7, so it remains a mystery as to why mere matters of ‘detail’ are taking so long to resolve
The sub-text in such situations is that there is a significant sticking point, often introduced by one or other of the party’s as a last minute ‘red line’ caveat.
The sticking point is clearly not ‘run of the mill detail’, but as to its exact nature – neither party is letting on at present.
There have been times during this marathon negotiation, where one or other of the parties has been frustrated with the other and brought issues into the public domain.
Ferrari’s chairman has stated his interest in Lewis in the Italian media and Toto Wolff practically threatened the British world champion by publically naming his replacements in Bottas or Alonso – should the contract extension fail to be agreed.
Behind the scenes, as the major shareholder it is certain that Daimler Benz and the board in Stuttgart are heavily involved in the negotiation – and their actions strongly suggest they are not prepared to retain Lewis Hamilton – at any price.
Whether that price is more than Ferrari have paid for Vettel, or McLaren Honda for Alonso may be a cause for frustration with Hamilton.
Ferrari are well known for writing the biggest cheques if necessary to get the right man for the Scuderia. And with the SF15-T looking strong early in the year – and with a war chest available for in season development, it could well be that Lewis’ head is being turned, as the historic Italian marque, courts favour with him.
Until the deal is announced, in reality it is as far from being concluded as it has ever been.
‘We love each other, but we can’t find agreement on how to stay together’.
Were negotiations to break down in the future, and the Mercedes/Lewis PR revert to – ‘we’ll conclude this matter when we’ve finished out title fight’. This would surely be a strong indication that Lewis is already taking lessons in Italian.