After plenty of delays and speculation it was finally announced that Lewis Hamilton will indeed continue competing in Formula 1 with Mercedes, but only up to the end of 2021.
The length of Hamilton’s new deal is a surprise to some as the Briton has historically signed multi year contracts. This has meant rather than end any speculation, new speculation has materialised as theories have already been created as to what Hamilton’s future will be within the sport beyond this year.
It has also meant that there is a feeling that questions over Hamilton’s driving career have merely been deferred and is set to dominate part of the 2021 Formula 1 news cycle, especially if it takes as long for any sort of deal encompassing 2022 and beyond to be publicly announced.
To a greater extent the Briton’s deal has meant Mercedes have now become a hot news topic themselves when it comes to the 2022 driver market. In the wake of the news surrounding Hamilton it has been mentioned that Mercedes theoretically have two seats available. This with Valtteri Bottas also being on a one year deal.
Almost immediately in the wake of confirmation that Hamilton will contest this coming Formula 1 season, potential scenarios and theories were being created as to what Mercedes 2022 driver lineup would look like, should Hamilton decide to retire from driving after this year. Further scenarios and theories have been put forward should Mercedes completely refresh its lineup for 2022. Most of these theories involved Max Verstappen and George Russell but there has also been mention of Daniel Ricciardo, Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso.
Verstappen, Ricciardo, Vettel and Alonso are all at the beginning of multi year deals. Yet as highlighted last season with Sergio Perez’s place on the grid, all driver contracts have break clauses of some form which could allow either of the four mentioned to secure a seat at Mercedes, should one become available.Embed from Getty Images
With Russell it is slightly easier as the Briton is coming to the end of his current deal with Williams. One name not mentioned, but to me should be included, is that of Esteban Ocon. The Frenchman is entering the final year of his deal with Renault/Alpine and is Mercedes affiliated. He may have gone under the radar for the majority of the 2020 season, but Ocon did manage a podium finish in the Sakhir Grand Prix. With an impressive 2021 season alongside Fernando Alonso at Alpine Ocon could end up reigniting talk of him driving for Mercedes in the near future.
Before I or anyone else gets too carried away with spinning ‘what ifs’ in regards to Mercedes 2022 lineup it is important to note that Toto Wolff, in the wake of Hamilton’s contract announcement, stated that the first priority for the Brackley based team would be to open negotiations with their current drivers over its 2022 seats.
In the specific case of Hamilton there appears to be a desire from Wolff to start contract negotiations with the Briton earlier over any deal encompassing 2022 and beyond. Yet both sides may still need to navigate a hectic schedule, the impact of the current pandemic and the desire to negotiate face to face in order to achieve that.Embed from Getty Images
Yet as can be clearly seen from this post, and any other articles covering Hamilton’s new Mercedes contract, the foundations are already in place for wild speculation to ramp up surrounding the Briton’s next deal, if there is one, and the wider issue of Mercedes driver lineup for 2022 and beyond.
Only time will tell what the longer term future holds for Lewis Hamilton within the sport. Considering his recent activism and desire to improve diversity within motorsport, and highlighting the environmental impact the sport, teams and individuals have on the planet, it may be felt that Hamilton would be best served to continue racing as it gives him a great platform to get those messages across.Embed from Getty Images
Yet as has also been pointed out Hamilton has quite a large profile outside of the bubble of Formula 1. This raises the question of whether he actually needs to continue driving in order to create the positive changes he desires to make in Formula 1 and the wider world. Something that can be evidenced by him going into team ownership with his X44 Extreme E team.
As can be seen from the above Hamilton’s new deal has merely shifted the talk about his future in Formula 1 away from 2021 and onto 2022. It has also simultaneously put a focus on Mercedes 2022 driver lineup which has the potential to become a wild news topic throughout the year, especially if it takes a long time for the Brackley based team to make an official announcement. What Hamilton ultimately does with his life beyond this year we will have to wait and see, but it looks like in the meantime the theories and speculation surrounding his future will continue.