Prior to the delayed start of the 2020 Formula 1 season, at least two things were more or less guaranteed; one being Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes would be the frontrunners and overwhelming favourite for the Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championships, respectively and two, both would extend their marriage into the eighth year.
Fast forward to the present, the first projection has turned out to be bang on the money, with both Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes run-away leaders in their respective championships. The second projection though is turning out to be quite surprisingly more complicated.
Make no mistake, Hamilton is still exceedingly likely to extend his stay with the Silver Arrows, but the delay in contract negotiations has reached an attention-grabbing point, nonetheless.
Teammate Valtteri Bottas has already signed on the dotted line, so it might be a source of wonder to many why the de facto first driver of the team hasn’t. It must be noted that a delay over a new deal between the two parties is not exactly something new, with there being a similar hold up three years ago, reportedly due to extensive haggling over the financial package Mercedes were willing to offer their superstar driver.
A couple of factors could be behind the delay to confirm the Englishman’s Mercedes seat into the 2021 season. One, there are constant rumours that Mercedes could be sold. The talk is that Ineos, who is currently one of the team’s sponsors, are interested in a total buy-out that would see the team remodelled to Ineos, just like Team Sky in cycling.
Other reports in recent days have indicated that some senior figures at Mercedes themselves believe they’ve reached the zenith of success after nearly a decade of dominance. Therefore, the aim would be to go out while still at the top.
Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes taking some time to renew their relationship has caused a ruckus in the camp
Mercedes signing the recent Concorde Agreement greatly dilutes these claims, but they might have become a distraction in Hamilton’s contract talks, as he would obviously demand assurances that the team would remain ahead of competitors, regardless of ownership.
Secondly, in what has been a year of intense activism across all sports, Hamilton has emerged as one of the most aggressive protestors against racism and social inequality. His team has been highly supportive, even using black livery for the 2020 car, instead of its usual silver, to showcase their devotion to the fight for social justice and inclusion.
However, the rest of the grid has not been as fervently supportive, with several drivers refusing to take the knee before races. It is a slight possibility that Hamilton, who has not hidden his disappointment by the lack of absolute support from the other drivers, has decided to evaluate whether he can contribute more to the fight against social injustice by moving away from a sport of which he is the face.
The inevitability of him equaling Micheal Schumacher’s record of seven Formula 1 championships this year could have prompted him to think his legacy is secure, which might symbolize the need to focus on other things.
However, knowing how competitive Hamilton is, it is just as likely, if not even more that he is determined to win another championship next year in order to sit upon that peak all alone.
In that case, it is only a matter of time before Hamilton and Mercedes reach a new deal. Team principal Toto Wolff has expressed his positivity towards this being the likely outcome of the ongoing talks, saying he expects an announcement in the next few weeks.
For now, the tension over the sport’s most dominant driver continues to increasingly build up.
Author: Timothy Ainebyoona
Timothy is a dynamic analyst passionate about news and all things sport.