The drama that ever surrounds the matter of Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes AMG F1 committing to further years together appears to be coming to an end. Despite Hamilton implying at various points during the 2022 season he was considering the issues surrounding his retirement it appears that 2023 won’t be the British driver’s final season in Formula One. Hamilton finished P6 last season in the F1 drivers’ championship, the lowest he’s been since his debut season in 2007.
Speaking to the assembled media at the 2022 Abu Dhabi GP When asked whether the difficult year he’d suffered with the uncompetitive W13 car had impacted his thoughts about retirement Hamilton replied, “its difficult to say”.
Lewis Hamilton retirement criteria
“If we’d had a year like [2021 in 2022] and we were competing at the front all year, who knows where I would be.”
“But I think, each year, you have to ask yourself, are you willing to give as much – if not more – than you did when you first started? Are you willing to give up all the time to prepare and train and work with the team and deliver?
“If there’s ever a moment that I’m arriving and I’m just coasting along, then that’s when I don’t personally belong here and don’t deserve a position here, and that’s when I should stop.
“[So] I question myself whether I’m able to do [those things], and do I want to do [them], and the answer is yes.”
Mercedes F1 too far behind Red Bull
However, it is questionable whether Mercedes can close the significant gap to Red Bull Racing in just one season and give Hamilton the car he craves to achieve continued success.
Following a comprehensive defeat at the 2022 Mexican GP, Toto Wolff admitted, “we believe we understand where the gap comes from and we’ve lost eight or 10 months in terms of development because we couldn’t figure out what was wrong.”
While other teams spent the 2022 season developing their all new ‘ground effect’ packages, Mercedes were mired in the necessary efforts to merely make the W13 stable.
No F1 team has ever made up 8-10 months worth of lost design and testing time over a winter and it is unlikely Mercedes will achieve that feat for the start of 2023.
Lewis Hamilton new Mercedes contract “hours away”
However, ahead of the February F1 car launches and pre-season testing Mercedes boss Toto Wolff believes a new contract with Hamilton is just a “few hours” away.
Toward the end of last season Hamilton appeared eager to agree a multi-year deal with Mercedes despite having a year to run on his current contract. Presumably the reason a deal has not been done is that Lewis and Toto have spent Christmas and the New Year on different continents and are yet to sit down together in the same room.
“In the last 10 years our relationship has grown that it’s just a matter of him physically being back in Europe, sticking our heads together, wrestling a bit and then leaving the room with white smoke after a few hours,” Toto now reveals.
Despite his musings over retirement, Hamilton revealed at the last Mexican GP he does not see a point whereby his career must end.
Reading the Hamilton contract tea leaves
“I’m not putting a limit on it, to be honest,” he said in Mexico last year,” Lewis told assembled media.
“I’m planning to do a multi-year deal with my team. I really, really don’t know what the next five years [hold], I think we’re still trying to work on that.
“There’s a lot of great things that are being put in place, like I’ve just launched a [film] production company this week. But I feel great, like in mind and body.
“I think there’s more stuff to achieve together. I just don’t know [how long].”
The devil will be in the detail as to how keen Hamilton and Mercedes are prepared to commit to each other. Double F1 world champion Max Verstappen signed a 5 year extension to his Red Bull contract following his first championship title in 2021. The dutch driver is now committed to the Milton Keynes based outfit until the end of the 2028 season.
Will Russell end Hamilton’s F1 career?
Industry whispers suggest Hamilton’s new deal could be for as little as two years as the 7 times F1 champion is uncertain whether Mercedes will be able to close the gap to Adrian Newey’s spectacular ground effect F1 car design.
Further, Mercedes may be uncertain over Hamilton’s motivation should he find himself as did Sebastian Vettel at Ferrari in a car that is annually second or third best.
Another fly in the ointment for Lewis is his young gun team mate George Russell, who was clearly the better driver for the silver arrows team during 2022. A repeat of that this season would mean for the first time in his F1 career Hamilton would be bested by a team mate over two consecutive years.
When the new contract between Hamilton and Mercedes is announced the length of the term will be fascinating. If the deal however printed has break clauses set for the end of 2024, then the reality is Hamilton will have agreed a one year extension – which is far from the “multi-year” deal he claims to desire.
Reviewing a rollercoaster ride 🎢 Sitting down with Toto, Mike and Hywel to talk through the ups and downs of the 2022 F1 season 💪
— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) December 28, 2022