Lewis Hamilton: Mercedes outline reasons for short-term deal for Formula 1 2021 new season
Why only a one-year deal for Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes and does that mean he could retire from F1 at the end of 2021? Team principal Toto Wolff answers the key questions after the world champion's new deal is finally confirmed
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 09/02/21 11:54am
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has explained why they have only agreed a one-year contract extension with Lewis Hamilton.
A deal for seven-time champion Hamilton to continue with Mercedes into a ninth season was finally announced on Monday, but its short-term nature caused surprise.
Formal talks over video conferencing between Hamilton and Wolff only began in the week of Christmas and, with the world champion's old deal lapsing at the start of 2021, the need to get an agreement in place for at least the new season quickly became imperative.
"We jointly agreed on a one-year deal," said Wolff, Mercedes' F1 team principal and co-owner, in a virtual press conference after the deal was announced.
"First of all there is a substantial regulation change in 2022. We also want to see how the world develops, and the company.
"On the other side, because we kept it very late… it was important to get it done as soon as possible. In that respect we thought let's postpone the discussion about 2022 and onwards until a later stage in 2021."
Despite all manner of speculation in recent weeks about supposed aspects of the contract negotiations, Wolff insisted "the money topic wasn't the sticking point" and that ultimately "it was more about 'let us get going quickly for 2021'".
The Mercedes team principal also rubbished suggestions Hamilton had asked for a so-called 'Verstappen clause' - an effective veto on future team-mates beyond 2021.
Expanding on the reasons for wanting more time to talk about 2022 and beyond, Wolff said: "There are uncertainties in the world that affect the way the sport can operate that have an influence on our revenue, on TV monies, on sponsorship income.
"Daimler and Mercedes are in a huge transformation towards electric mobility and that means investment, So we are living in a financial reality different from what it was a few years ago.
"But having said that, we are totally in line, Lewis and me, the wider group and Mercedes, about the situation. So there was never any discrepancy in opinion."
Could Hamilton retire at the end of 2021?
Although Hamilton has committed to a 15th season of Formula 1 and the pursuit of a record-breaking eighth world title this year, his medium-term future in the sport remains unresolved by Monday's announcement.
Hamilton said at the end of last year he was not yet certain how long he wanted to continue racing. But Wolff believes the 36-year-old can easily continue beyond this year.
"As long as he enjoys racing, I think he's very capable of going longer," said Wolff.
"He develops as a driver he looks after himself in terms of physical training and mental preparation, so I don't think in terms of ability that ends in 2021. But at the end it's his decision."
Wolff said they would enter into talks about 2022 "much earlier" than was the case last year. He reiterated while "Lewis needs to decide what his future holds for him", Mercedes also needed to think about their long-term driver options.
Valtteri Bottas is also on a one-year deal, while highly-regarded protege George Russell, whose career is managed by Mercedes, is in the final year of a three-year term at Williams
💬 "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." - @LewisHamilton #LewisAnnounced pic.twitter.com/erRq1hMTjX— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) February 8, 2021
"Valtteri and Lewis have our 100 per cent commitment and loyalty for 2021, we will support them with everything we have," explained Wolff.
"We will then look beyond this year and say: 'what is the line-up that we imagine in 2022 and onwards?'
"Our first discussions are going to be with Valtteri and Lewis in respecting our values of loyalty and integrity but on the other side the young drivers are the future and therefore we need to consider how we want to set ourselves up for the years beyond."
If he was not already in contention before then, Russell firmly put himself in the shop window for 2022 after a starring role in Hamilton's place at December's Sakhir GP after the world champion contracted coronavirus.