The saga of Lewis Hamilton’s contract renewal with Mercedes has kept the Formula One paddock intrigued whilst the on track racing has been predictable this year.
Hamilton originally declared at the US Grand Prix in Austin he wanted a ‘multi-year’ deal to end his career with Mercedes AMG F1.
Recent ‘multi-year’ deals
Whilst technically a ‘multi-year’ contract in Formula One speak a two year deal is never touted as such.
The terminology ‘multi-year’ is F1 contract speak for a deal that is at least three years in length and regularly up to five years. These arrangements usually have a mutually binding element of around three years with further options into years four and five.
The most recent multi-year deals have been awarded to Charles Leclerc and Lando Norris and were each five years in length. Leclerc will be a free agent at the end of next season while Norris is tied into McLaren until the conclusion of the following season.
Max Verstappen signed a five year extension to his exiting arrangement with Red Bull in 2022 which will see him drive for the Milton Keynes outfit until the end of 2028.
Hamilton wanted 5 year deal
Given the history of Lewis Hamilton’s contract arrangements usually running on a two year cycle, it was surprising for experienced F1 observers for Hamilton to be touting a ‘multi-year’ deal back in Texas.
It was assumed Lewis’ shift from a two year deal to a potential contract for five more seasons was give his age the British champion was prepared to commit the rest of his F1 career to Mercedes. This would give Lewis control of when he retired rather than have to forced upon him.
Yet it appears a more sinister reason may have been at the heart of Hamilton’s declaration in Texas. Hamilton’s management team at the time would have been sounding out Mercedes to see how lie of the land and it could be for the first time since Lewis joined the team, Mercedes’ were less optimistic about the future and therefore the huge expense involved in engaging Hamilton to drive for them for several more years.
The 2022 W13 car had been by Mercedes’ standards awful and by comparison Red Bull Racing looked as though they’d grabbed the new 2022 regulations by the scruff of the neck and could dominate the sport until the new power units arrive in 2026.
Hamilton’s “impossible” demands
Given Red Bull superiority being the likely medium term F1 landscape the wining difference Hamilton brings to a car designed by a team running a distant second or third in the constructors’ championship may not be worth the price Lewis team believes he can command.
In February this year a leaked report to Sportune – presumably from Hamilton’s management – claimed Mercedes and Lewis were discussing a five year driving contract and a ten year Mercedes’ ambassador role which in total came in at around 400 million euros.
TJ13 has repeatedly reported that the ten year ambassador element is impossible for Mercedes AMG F1 to agree, this would need to come from the auto manufacturing companies board based in Stuttgart.
Lewis confirmed this at the recent Canadian grand Prix when he revealed, “It’s more complicated than usual because it’s not just a simple driver contract.”
Mercedes HQ blocking Hamilton deal
However, since Hamilton joined the team, the German corporation has sold down its total stake to just one third with INEOS and Toto Wolff retaining the other two thirds equally.
Lewis publicly converted to the green agenda when he announced in 2020 he was selling his entire collection of combustion engined cars and retaining only his Mercedes electric SUV.
Whilst this is there future direction of Mercedes automotive production, being associated with Hamilton for another ten years appears to be something they have been resisting.
So while the arm wrestling with German corporate land may not have been going ton well, it is entirely within Toto Wolff’s gift to award Hamilton the term of contract he wishes, yet even this part of Lewis new contract appears to be in dispute.
George Russell new contract ‘secretly’ signed
Yet even the length of time Hamilton wants to drive now appears to be at odds with how Mercedes are viewing the future.
At the Spanish Grand Prix the British press were reporting the 38 year old was demanding a five year deal with the silver arrows teams with some $250m. They revealed a source close to Mercedes’ had leaked in a coded fashion that the “money was not a delaying factor in the talks,”
The Mail now claims an insider has revealed George Russell is not content to remain at Mercedes should they agree a long term deal with Hamilton because this will ensure he remains “in the shadow of his team-mate”.
The British publication is now reporting that Mercedes only wish to offer Hamilton a contract that is up to two years in length, ideally a one year guaranteed with an option for year two.
Time is running out
As TJ13 reported last month, the team has long term decisions to make over their future drivers and with Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz available in a year and Lando Norris in two, they must be flexible with their arrangements with Hamilton.
With the British Grand Prix on the near horizon this weekend, it could be that Mercedes and Hamilton are waiting for Lewis home race to make the big reveal.
However, the longer the saga drags on, the worse the news could be for Hamilton fans because once the summer break is finished, the F1 driver market is in full flow.
Hamilton had final offer
With two Ferrari drivers available next year and Sergio Perez’s Red Bull seat likely to become available, Mercedes will not wish to see their young protege in George Russell lured away from their clutches while they battle to conclude the Hamilton deal.
The team have an option on Russell for another twelve months though that merely puts him in the window as a potential Ferrari receipt should he not believe he can become the silver arrows number one driver soon.
Rumours suggest, Mercedes have already concluded a deal to retain Russell until 2025, though mysteriously they are holding back the announcement.
The shocking reality is Mercedes have probably made their final offer to Hamilton, its up to him whether he takes it or alternatively announces his retirement this year to save face.
A box-office battle between Sainz and Perez! 🥊
— Formula 1 (@F1) July 2, 2023