Image: Wikimedia Commons / emperornie
Image: Wikimedia Commons / emperornie

Formula 1: Lewis Hamilton signs one-year Mercedes extension

Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton has signed a new one-year contract with Mercedes for the 2021 season, where he will aim for a record eighth world title.

In a statement, Mercedes announced that this new contract will see their collaboration continue for a ninth consecutive season, where he will partner Valtteri Bottas for the fifth time.

Hamilton has won 74 of his 95 race wins and six of his seven Drivers titles with Mercedes.

The statement also committed to build on an agreement to push for greater diversity and inclusion in motorsport, which will take the form of a joint charitable foundation with the mission of “supporting greater diversity and inclusion in all its forms”.

Hamilton launched his own commission to look into the reasons for under-representation for those from minority backgrounds in motorsport last year, while Mercedes have pledged to improve the diversity of their own team.

I am grateful that Mercedes has been extremely supportive of my call to address this issue

– Lewis Hamilton

The world champion said: “I am excited to be heading into my ninth season with my Mercedes teammates. Our team has achieved incredible things together and we look forward to building on our success even further, while continuously looking to improve, both on and off the track.

“I’m equally determined to continue the journey we started to make motorsport more diverse for future generations and I am grateful that Mercedes has been extremely supportive of my call to address this issue. I’m proud to say we are taking that effort further this year by launching a foundation dedicated to diversity and inclusion in the sport. I am inspired by all that we can build together and can’t wait to get back on the track in March.”

We have decided to extend the sporting relationship for another season

– Toto Wolff

Toto Wolff, CEO and team principal, said: “We have always been aligned with Lewis that we would continue, but the very unusual year we had in 2020 meant it took some time to finish the process. Together, we have decided to extend the sporting relationship for another season and to begin a longer-term project to take the next step in our shared commitment to greater diversity within our sport.

“Lewis’s competitive record stands alongside the best the sports world has ever seen, and he is a valued ambassador for our brand and our partners. The story of Mercedes and Lewis has written itself into the history books of our sport over the past eight seasons, and we are hungry to compete and to add more chapters to it.”

The new F1 season begins at the Bahrain GP on 26-28 March.

It was touted as breaking news, but we all knew that Hamilton would re-sign with Mercedes – it’s just the case that no-one thought it would take so long. He’s the last driver to be confirmed for the 2021 F1 grid, and he’s already the favourite to win this season. Mercedes have been on top for years now, and rule changes aren’t coming into force until 2022, so there’s no reason to expect anything else.

There has been a lot of speculation about just why it was taking so long. Some believed it to be a publicity stunt, and there have been many rumours of disagreements when it comes to Hamilton’s salary, with some outlets reporting that Hamilton was demanding $40 million a year. It led Ralf Schumacher to describe the contract delay as “a shame and, I have to say honestly, a bit embarrassing”.

But now, the contract is finally signed, and the big point of interest is its duration – why only one year? What we know officially is that both sides asked for the flexibility of a one-year deal, but the limited duration is also a measure of the lateness of the agreement.

It also has interesting implications for the future, however. Hamilton is 36 and he’s not likely to be in the sport for much longer, so Mercedes have the ability to start scouting around for potential replacements. Bottas’ contract also expires this year, and so does that of Williams driver George Russell, who is expected to make the step-up to Mercedes full-time. The Mercedes contracts this year were completely as expected – next year’s may be a little more interesting.

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