Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes finally agree terms on a new contract, although only a one-year deal announced for the 2021 season; new agreement includes joint commitment for greater diversity and inclusion
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 08/02/21 6:53pm
Lewis Hamilton has finally signed his new Mercedes contract to formally confirm his place on the Formula 1 grid for a 2021 season when he will aim for a record eighth world title.
More than a month after his previous deal expired, Mercedes confirmed seven-time champion Hamilton had agreed terms to stay on – although, in contrast to past deals, a contract for just a single season was announced.
Hamilton, who turned 36 in January, has previously signed agreements of at least two years in F1.
It is understood that both Hamilton and Mercedes wanted the flexibility of a short deal.
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Notably, the deal includes a commitment from both sides to create a joint charitable foundation, which Mercedes say “will have the mission of supporting greater diversity and inclusion in all its forms in motorsport”.
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 excited to be heading into my ninth season with my Mercedes team-mates,” said Hamilton, who joined the Brackley team in 2013 and has won six of the past seven F1 world titles to rewrite the sport’s record books.
“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.”
Toto Wolff, the team’s co-owner and principal who agreed his own new deal before Christmas to stay the latter role, has formed a hugely successful partnership with Hamilton and said “we are hungry to compete and to add more chapters” to the Briton’s time at Mercedes.
Lewis & Mercedes agree a new deal but it’s only for 1 year Which means that the contracts for both Lewis & Valtteri run out at the end of this season as does George’s at Williams. 3 drivers chasing 2 seats at Merc & all out of contract. You could argue that’s a smart move by Toto
— David Croft (@CroftyF1) February 8, 2021
“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,” said Wolff.
“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 Formula 1 season begins at the Bahrain GP on March 26-28.
Why is the new deal only for one year?
Despite beginning the year out of contract for the first time in his career, there had been little doubt that Hamilton and Mercedes would come to an agreement before pre-season testing begins in Bahrain in the middle of next month.
But the one-year length of the year does represent a surprise.
“I understand that both sides wanted the flexibility of a year,” reported Sky Sports News‘ Craig Slater.
“In Lewis Hamilton’s case, if he wins his eighth world title at the age of 36 he is at the head of Formula 1’s statistics by every significant measure. Might he wake up one morning and decide he wants to do something else? He’s got many other interests in life.
“But some of those interests are intertwined with Mercedes and so it’s significant that what also has been announced is the joint initiative to create greater diversity within motorsport. It’s going to be a charitable organisation set up by Lewis and Mercedes. Significantly, this is a long-term project.
“It has been expressed to me that as far as Hamilton and Mercedes are concerned, they have dealt with 2021. This by no means means they will not continue to work together in 2022 or Lewis won’t continue his racing career with Mercedes next year. They will sit down at some point and deal with that in due course as well.”
The one-year term means that Hamilton and team-mate Valtteri Bottas, who renewed his own deal last August, are both on deals that expire this December.
Intriguingly, that is also the case for Mercedes protege George Russell – who is beginning the final year of his three-season deal at Williams. The 22-year-old Briton starred as stand-in in for Hamilton at December’s Sakhir GP when the world champion contracted coronavirus and is expected to make the step up to Mercedes full-time at some point in future seasons.
Another potential long-term Mercedes target, Max Verstappen, is on a deal to 2023 at Red Bull.
Speculation that Hamilton requested having a veto on Verstappen as his future team-mate beyond 2021 during his talks with Wolff are understood to have been false.
Could certainly be viewed as a good way for Toto to keep his option open for 2022, assuming of course that Lewis wants to continue next season. Either way, good to see that the defending champ has signed. Come the end of the season will he be the Gr’eightest’ of all time?
— David Croft (@CroftyF1) February 8, 2021
F1 will undergo a significant rules overhaul in 2022, when technical regulations are being changed aimed at closing the field. Mercedes have won a record seven drivers’ and constructors’ championship doubles in succession.
Speaking to Sky Sports last October, Hamilton said “I don’t think I’m at my peak” but was not sure at that stage how long he wanted to continue racing.
“I still want to continue to race but I don’t know how much longer it will be,” said Hamilton at the time. “It’s definitely not going to be a long time before I stop, so this is a period of time where I’ve got to slowly work out what the future holds.”