There’s a changing of the guard in Formula One. Sebastian Vettel is retiring from the sport after 16 years as an F1 driver winning 4 drivers’ titles with Red Bull Racing along the way. This leaves Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso (41yrs) as the sport’s elder statesmen with the Spaniard now completing his 20th season as a driver in the world’s premier single seater racing series.
Lewis Hamilton first raced a Formula one car the year that Vettel was recruited by Toro Rosso in 2007 and will turn 38 years of age before the start of the 2023 season.
Is Lewis Hamilton ‘desperate’ for a new contract?
The British 7 times world champion has one more year to run on his current contract with Mercedes but has recently expressed an interest in negotiating a deal to see him remain with the team for a number of years to come.
Yet the debate about Hamilton’s eventual retirement returns time and again in the F1 press with the latest driver market twists and turns adding to the speculation.
Hamilton has on the whole left his contract renewal negotiations well into the final year of any current deal, so its surprising Lewis is making noises over continuing with Mercedes more than a year before his current contract expires.
Whilst this is hardly a signal of desperation, Mercedes appear to now have the upper hand whenever the talks between the two begin. Whether Hamilton will retain the hunger Alonso appears to have for F1 into his 40’s is yet to be seen, particularly as Toto Wolff appeared to admit last week Mercedes are unlikely to be challenging for championships before 2024 at the earliest.
Mercedes F1 lose reserve driver
Mercedes have lost their reserve driver Stoffel Vandoorne who will join the Aston Martin for 2023 and speculation is rife the 8 times world champions will announce Daniel Ricciardo in Brazil as his replacement.
The Australian is an 8 times GP winner and only Hamilton (103), Vettel (53), Verstappen (34) Alonso (32) and Bottas (10) have more wins of the current F1 drivers’ competing this season. Yet Daniel has struggled since joining McLaren from Renault in 2021 being outscored by his team mate week in and week out.
McLaren decided to pay up Ricciardo’s contract a year early and have replaced him with Alpine junior Oscar Piastri for next year and the fun loving Aussie’s F1 future hangs in the balance.
Both team principals from Williams and Haas indicated they would be happy to see Ricciardo in one of their cars next year, yet Daniel has repeatedly stated he doesn’t want to race for a ‘back of the grid’ F1 team.
Ricciardo replacing Hamilton is ridiculed
However, its unclear how after a ‘year out’ Ricciardo will find a racing seat in F1 for a top team.
Speculation has been growing that his move to Mercedes as a reserve driver is a long term plan from the Brackley outfit to replace Lewis Hamilton, yet ex-F1 driver Joylean Palmer pours scorn on this idea when asked by the F1 nation podcast.
“Are you really putting Daniel in if Lewis retires? I don’t think so,” said Palmer.
“Let’s be honest, McLaren doesn’t put him in, Alpine didn’t want him. Mercedes? At the top of Formula 1, after two years like that? I don’t see it! I think the best way to rebuild his career is to stay on the grid and get results.”
Palmer addresses directly the elephant in the room over Ricciardo’s decision to decline a drive for 2023 and leave the F1 grid.
“But you can’t do that as a third driver. That’s the frustrating thing, which I don’t understand. This year he’s been pretty down to earth with Norris and McLaren and the mood towards him.”
Ricciardo F1 race career seems over
Palmer was outclassed by his Renault team mates during his two seasons of F1 in 2016-2017 so he knows the feeling to be repeatedly beaten by a team mate week in week out.
“I know from my experience at Renault that demoralises you. Maybe he’s done now and wants a break for the first time in ten [years] – just put your feet up for a year.”
Ricciardo as a replacement for Hamilton just does not make sense however crazy the nature of the F1 driver market becomes next year.
The Aussie was driver of the day last time out in Mexico finishing in P7 ahead of his team mate Lando Norris. However, the route for Daniel back to a top drive in an F1 car appears non-existent whether he signs with Mercedes or not.
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"I'm not going to lie, it's very a unpleasant situation" 😩
Pierre Gasly has his say on his ten penalty points, and explains what the situation is going forward should he receive two more and acquire a race ban 👇 pic.twitter.com/fMhbwxMll8
— Sky Sports F1 (@SkySportsF1) November 11, 2022