Hopes were high in Mercedes’ Formula One land following their victorious Sau Paulo weekend of 2022. With just one race remaining of the season hopes were high within the once dominant F1 team that their W13 car design was coming good.
Despite it being George Russell who won in Brazil for Mercedes a joyous Lewis Hamilton was effusive about his future with the team declaring;
Quick multi-year deal to be done
“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.”
A multi-year deal by definition is more than a one year contract and even from Lewis’ comments its not unreasonable to believe he thought three or more years more driving for Mercedes was possible.
Prior to the launch of the 2023 Mercedes challenger, TotoWolff told assembled fans at the Autosport event in January that no deal had been agreed between Lewis and Mercedes because of the Christmas vacation and Hamilton being out of Europe.
“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,” Wolff flippantly stated.
Them LH negotiate in public
Team LH then began their negotiating in public as an article without sources was published in French business publication “Sportune.”
It quoted with authority that Hamilton was expecting a deal with $140m for 2024-25 with and added $25m a year for a decade for a role as a Mercedes ambassador.
The silence from Stuttgart and Brackley following the financial revelations was deafening and over three months after Wolff’s Autosport comments, there is no white smoke and no deal has been agreed.
Further in that time Hamilton lambasted unnamed members of the Mercedes team for failing to listen to him over the failed W14 car design and the team has rearranged the role of its most senior technical officer in an apparent response.
LeClerc discussed as Hamilton replacement
Paddock chatter has speculated that Mercedes are lining up Charles Leclerc as a replacement should they fail to agree terms with Hamilton or the Brit decide to retire.
Clearly Mercedes will not be delivering their multi-world champion driver a car capable of challenging the Red Bull this season and by ‘starting over’ on the design for 2024 there’s no guarantee they’ll make up the lost two years on others like Ferrari and Aston Martin.
Hamilton is facing the bleak truth that it is more likely than not his beloved Mercedes cannot give him the equipment to claim the record breaking with drivers’ championship even in the medium term.
More hares were set running in the Baku paddock suggesting the Hamilton new deal will be concluded in around a month’s time.
Verstappen labels “Princess George” Russell
Talk of 10 year Ambassador role gone
The Telegraph reports today that matters will come to a head when the team debut their “radical” new W14 design in two races time at Imola.
Wolff has played down the impact of the upgrades though it appears Lewis Hamilton’s future rides upon the extent of the improvement they bring.
Further, the term of Hamilton’s contract extension is said to be in dispute, with Mercedes preferring an arrangement where there is a guaranteed one year plus the option for a second. Hamilton is holding out for a fixed two year deal with no caveats.
All talk of the 10 year Mercedes’ Ambassador role has now disappeared as clearly this would not be funded by the Formula one racing team but from the brand’s HQ in Stuttgart.
Divisions grow in Red Bull camp
The end of a career in sight for Lewis
Now that Mercedes AMG F1 do not have the most dominant car I F1, Hamilton’s later life skills are coming under scrutiny.
Once the master of the one lap shootout, Lewis is 4-1 down to his young team mate George Russell this year though he does at present have a 20 point lead in the drivers championship over the Mercedes’ young pretender.
However the numbers play out, one thing is for sure and that is Mercedes AMG F1 are seriously looking at life beyond Lewis Hamilton and maybe for the first time in a decade.
How things have changed in less than six months.
A multi-year ‘quick to do deal’ espoused by Lewis has in fact become a prolonged and drawn out process with potentially just one year left as a Mercedes F1 driver on the horizon for the seven times world champion.
READ MORE: F1 boss criticises Verstappen’s judgement
Safety Cat Deployed 🐈⬛@Charles_Leclerc clarifies that he was reporting a feline friend on the radio during Saturday's Sprint, not a car issue! 😅#AzerbaijanGP #F1Sprint @ScuderiaFerrari pic.twitter.com/vxKCPWCgRR
— Formula 1 (@F1) May 1, 2023