Lewis Hamilton yet to sign new contract for next season with Mercedes; Hamilton took another big step towards seventh title with Emilia-Romagna GP win; Team principal Toto Wolff expected to move into new role at Mercedes
Monday 2 November 2020 11:05, UK
Lewis Hamilton has admitted there is "no guarantee" he will remain in Formula 1 for 2021 despite his and Mercedes' prolonged success, as the six-time champion spoke in-depth about his own and team boss Toto Wolff's future.
Hamilton is out of contract with Mercedes at the end of the season but has long-been expected to sign on, telling Sky Sports last week that he "plans" to keep racing next season, when he will likely be aiming for an eighth title.
But after his victory at the Emilia-Romagna GP - where Mercedes wrapped up a record seventh consecutive constructors' title - Hamilton cast unexpected doubt on the formality of his stay.
Hamilton was asked about his influential boss Wolff, who is considering stepping aside from his role as team principal, and the fear of Mercedes losing momentum without him when he replied in the press conference: "I don't even know if I'm going to be here next year so it's not really a concern for me at the moment."
Hamilton, F1's record-holder in terms of race wins and who can seal a record-equalling seventh championship at 2020's next race in Turkey, then added that while he feels he can deliver, he is considering his future.
"We're in November and it's crazy that Christmas isn't that far away," the 35-year-old explained. "I feel great, I still feel very strong, I feel like I could keep going for plenty of months.
"But you mentioned about Toto and shelf-life, there's multiple things that do stay on the top of my mind.
"I would like to be here next year but there's no guarantee of that, for sure. There's a lot that excites me of the after-life. So time will tell."
Hamilton, who joined Mercedes in 2013 before embarking on an unpreceded journey of F1 domination, told Sky F1 last weekend that he would likely start contract talks after wrapping up the 2020 title.
And Wolff said he didn't quite believe Hamilton's latest comments about his future.
"If he were decide to step out of Formula 1, which I don't think's going to happen and I hope is not going to happen, then I think we're going to have a pretty frantic driver market out there," Wolff told reporters.
"But I think it's the [heat of the] moment, it's the emotions. We are all happy but very tired also."
Wolff added: "Nothing is ever secure, like Niki Lauda in the '70s. You could wake up one morning on a Friday or a Saturday at the track and say 'I'm just not having fun anymore', and that can happen to anybody.
"But we want to continue this journey. Lewis and I and all the team, we're not finished."
Hamilton made his statements when reacting to Wolff's comments to Sky Sports F1 after the race, when the team boss and CEO reiterated that he was set to move to a different role within Mercedes.
"I'm never going to abandon it because it is something I love to do," said Wolff, who is a co-owner of the team and has spoken of wanting to spend more time with family.
"I believe everyone has a certain shelf-life in a role and I haven't come to the end of mine. I think I can still contribute but I need to think about the future moving forward.
"Bringing somebody up, developing him doing this role, is something that is a fantastic challenge for me and that will be one of the next chapters. But you will see me around for a while."
Hamilton said he "understood" how Wolff felt and that "we have a lot of deep conversations so I'm very aware of where is mentally".
"We carry a lot of the weight together I think," added Hamilton. "Jeez, I've been here a long, long time and I can definitely understand wanting to pull back and give more time to your family and those things.
"I don't know who will replace him, but he is a leader, he's not going to put anyone [there] who's not going to be able to do the job, who's not going to be up to it.
"He will find the right people, that's why we've had the success we've had. He's found the right people and put them in the position to be able to shine as bright as possible. He's just empowered every single person in this team to be the best they can be. He will find somebody that's able to take it on and continue.
"But it's not one person, this team isn't about that, it's a collective of a lot of people. Toto doesn't build the car, it's a real team effort. But I'm supportive of him and whatever he wants to do moving forwards."