Damon Hill, former Formula 1 world champion and current TV pundit, has playfully warned record-breaking champion Lewis Hamilton after his recent remarks about veteran driver Fernando Alonso.
Hamilton and Alonso have been engaged in intense battles on the track this season, and their rivalry extends beyond the race as well.
After the Canadian Grand Prix, where Hamilton started third and overtook Alonso in turn one, the Mercedes driver made a humorous comment during a media round, saying, “His reactions are a bit slow because he’s a bit older now.” Hamilton attributed Alonso’s slower start to his age.
Was this comment well-considered? Damon Hill, the 1996 world champion, raises that question as he believes Hamilton may have awakened a sleeping giant in the nearly 42-year-old Alonso.
“Playing with fire…”
“I thought he was playing with fire a little bit when he kindly pointed out to Fernando Alonso that he had overtaken him at the start by saying that’s because he’s a bit old now,” Hill expressed to Britain’s “Express Sport.”
Hill further added, “Because the second oldest man in Formula One is Lewis Hamilton!” The record-breaking champion will turn 39 in early January 2024. Although retirement is not currently on the horizon for Hamilton, his competitive spirit may have been fueled by Alonso’s performance.
Hill speculated, “The good thing is that Fernando is showing that there is life after 40. Lewis is probably thinking, ‘Great, I’ve got a few seasons left.'” The duration of Hamilton’s contract renewal with Mercedes is currently a subject of intense debate.
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Contract extension to be confirmed at Silverstone?
Hamilton’s current contract with Mercedes is set to expire at the end of the 2023 season, but the British driver has expressed his desire to continue his partnership with the team he has been driving for over the past decade.
In a recent statement, Hamilton acknowledged the complexity of contract negotiations, stating, “We had a good meeting recently, these are very complex contracts. It’s not just a driver’s contract.”
“I plan to stay here [at Mercedes]. We just need to explore all avenues in the sense of how we can extend this partnership with such a great organisation.”
“Timing not critical”
Hamilton emphasised that the timing of the announcement is not his primary concern, saying, “We have spoken several times. We have a great relationship. It will be done when it’s done. If it’s next week, a month from now, as long as it’s done, I’m not really bothered.”
According to British press reports, the announcement confirming Hamilton’s contract extension for the 2024 season is expected to take place during the British Grand Prix in July, held at the iconic Silverstone Circuit.
Journalist David Croft from Sky Sports expressed confidence in the deal, stating, “The devil is in the detail. Lewis wants to stay with Mercedes and Mercedes wants to stay with him. It will happen.”
Croft also highlighted that the negotiations go beyond financial aspects, encompassing support for the Hamilton Commission and other initiatives important to Hamilton. The discussions also involve potential future collaborations, potentially including a brand ambassador role.
While there are various factors to be resolved, Croft suggested that an announcement during the Silverstone race weekend would make a lot of sense, aligning with the significance of the event and the strong connection between Hamilton and the British Grand Prix. This would obviously go against Hamilton’s prior statement that “timing was not critical” however.
In the drivers’ standings after eight Grands Prix, Hamilton and Alonso trail behind the Red Bull duo, with Max Verstappen leading the championship with 195 points. Hamilton (102 points, fourth place) and Alonso (117 points, third place) are both within striking distance of Sergio Perez in second place, who has accumulated 126 championship points.