When Lewis Hamilton enters his final year of a contract with his Mercedes team, the topic dominates the Formula One news cycle month in and month out until a resolution is announced.
Sebastian Vettel’s revelation prior to the 2022 Hungarian GP precipitated weeks of questioning for Hamilton from the media who wanted to know when he might follow suit.
Hamilton ‘hoped he wasn’t racing at 40’
The heightened debate over Lewis’ retirement was instigated during the F1 battle royal of 2021. Hamilton and Verstappen slugged it out all season for the drivers’ title with the Dutch driver taking the championship on the final lap of the final race in Abu Dhabi.
That year prior to the French GP, Hamilton had been asked about his thoughts on retirement.
“I honestly hope I’m not racing at 40,” Hamilton said in an interview with Corriere della Sera. “There are so many things I want to do that it would be difficult.
Lewis Hamilton changes his tune
At the time Lewis was just 36yrs and presumably the thought of being aged 40 was a long time away.
Hamilton sought to play down the speculation at the 2022 US GP where he told assembled reporters, “We are going to do another deal.
“We’re going to sit down and we’re going to discuss it in these next couple of months, I would say.”
The following weekend in Mexico Hamilton expanded on his contract intentions. In an interesting shift form his previous thoughts, Hamilton revealed he may in fact now race on into his 40’s
Now Hamilton asks for multi-year deal
“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.
Hamilton’s current contract ends this year and with almost a year to run its not usually a subject of much debate at this time.
Toto Wolff fired up Hamilton contract speculation
However, Toto Wolff fired up the embers during the winter break when he revealed Mercedes would have Hamilton’s new deal sorted in no time at all.
“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.”
Given Hamilton revealed today he’s been at the factory now for some time working in the simulator the inevitable topic cropped up once again over his new contract with Mercedes.
Expectations of an imminent deal were raised
When asked about the progress of Lewis’ new contract, Toto Wolff explained, “We’ve done a few of these contracts in the past and they change little from iteration to iteration.
“So it’s not hugely complex, apart from the obvious terms.
“We’ve had a first chat but I don’t want to commit to any timeline because it’s not important for him nor for us at this stage.
“It [his current deal] runs a full year and we’re going to find the right time.”
Toto Wolff now talking a longer game
Hamilton fans may notice a shift in the mood music here given Lewis’ keen expressions in Mexico for a ‘multi year deal.’
Further, Toto raised expectations of an early announcement in the New Year by suggesting delays were due to location issues and the new deal could be sorted “after a few hours” together.
The Mercedes boss waxed lyrical on the subject of Lewis’ laity to perform in what appeared unnecessary further information. Toto declared the British driver to be “maybe the best I’ve seen him after the winter”.
“His age plays no role for this next contract,” insisted Wolff.
“If you look at how well top athletes in the world have pushed the boundaries – and I’m thinking about Tom Brady who is 45 – and he’s on the pitch throwing a ball and being tackled, so age plays no role.”
Hamilton believes Mercedes will deliver
Toto appeared to answer an unasked question about whether Hamilton still had faith he Mercedes could provide him with a race winning car following the woeful W13 of 2022.
“He knows what he has with the team,” said Wolff. “We won eight constructors’ titles in a row and we got it wrong last year.
“The resource, the capability is there and we just need to continue to develop like we did last season.
“So I don’t think there’s any doubt in Lewis’ mind the team can perform.”
The elephant in the room
The elephant in the room was left unaddressed.
What would happen if George Russell was to beat Lewis Hamilton again in the upcoming season? And even the season after that?
Surely some kind of multi year deal with Hamilton will have the precursor that the British driver delivers for the team a minimum level of performance, which in turn can only be a measure of his results compared to a team mate.
If Russell beats Hamilton, retirement is the only option
In reality the result of this scenario would rest with Lewis Hamilton who would surely not race on if he was second best to his team mate for 2 or 3 consecutive seasons.
Toto Wolff’s lengthy comments on the topic of Lewis Hamilton’s future will do nothing to diminish the speculation over the British driver’s future with the Mercedes team.