Lewis Hamilton has indicated he is eager to conclude a new deal that will see him continuing to race on in Formula One. After his victory in Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix the world champion said he would like to be in a position to have concluded negotiations with his Mercedes team by the time F1 takes its summer break in August. The team principal, Toto Wolff, has suggested he expects Hamilton to sign a two-year contract with Mercedes.
Hamilton won from Red Bull’s Max Verstappen at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya after he and Mercedes delivered a masterclass of teamwork. Mercedes pulled off a bold strategic race, opting to pit Hamilton twice, confident their driver could overcome the deficit on track to Verstappen.
After his second stop Hamilton was 21 seconds in arrears to the Dutchman with 24 laps to go but he chased him down and passed him within 17 laps to sweep to a mighty win. He is enjoying the best start to a season of his career with three wins and a second place in four races and now has a 14-point advantage over Verstappen, who has enjoyed the quicker car over Hamilton at at least two of the four opening meetings.
Hamilton now has seven world championships, six of them with Mercedes, but currently has only a one-year contract with the team. That deal was done exceptionally late in F1 terms, agreed only in February of this year.
There has been widespread speculation on how long the 36-year-old, now in his 15th season in F1, will continue to race. If he wins an eighth title this year he will surpass Michael Schumacher’s record but after victory in Barcelona he strongly implied that there would be more to come.
“There’s still some life in this old dog,” he said of proposed contract negotiations. “Hopefully soon we can start, as long as it doesn’t interfere with the actual job. We still have 19 races to do but it would be great to get something in place before the break so then we could be in that break and have a clear picture of the future.”
Previous negotiations last year with Wolff were delayed by the pandemic and complicated by the difficulty in the pair meeting face to face. The team principal was intent on getting the deal done and to make it more than just a one-year extension.
“Yes, it should be [more than a year],” said Wolff. “We don’t want to be in a stressful situation every single year where we are absolutely flat-out trying to win races and needing to negotiate. I would rather that doesn’t happen every year.
“We just need to spend a day or two together, put it out there, and decide which are the difficult components. We will then lock the door and won’t walk out until it is sorted. That works best for us and it has worked best for us in the past.”
Hamilton was insistent that he wanted to ensure that the process this time began now, a clear indication he wanted to continue to race in F1.
“We never want to be in the position that we were in in January, in February,” Hamilton said. “It ruined my whole winter and I’m sure it wasn’t helpful for Toto’s, in terms of being able to be off and relaxed, so it felt like we didn’t really have much of a break. Naturally we don’t have to rush anything but I think we have to be sensible and start conversations. They’re very complex, it’s never a super simple procedure and so hopefully soon we can start.”
Hamilton is in the form of his life during his 15th season in F1. Wolff was confident his driver could race on into his 40s. “Yes, absolutely. I have no doubt about that. He is so disciplined that in a way it is inspiring,” he said. “As long as Lewis continues to look after himself mentally and physically, continues to develop cognitively, then he can go on for much longer.”
Hamilton scored his 100th pole in qualifying for the Spanish GP on Saturday and after his win paid tribute to how much it had meant to him when former world champion Damon Hill had praised his achievement.
Hill, who won his title with Williams in 1996, posted on Twitter after Hamilton took his remarkable 100th pole: “You do realise you are watching one of the most talented people to have ever walked the Earth, don’t you? He really is a phenomenon. I can only watch on in awe”.
Reflecting on Hill’s comments, Hamilton explained how much they had meant to him. “I felt so much gratitude to Damon,” he said. “I remember growing up watching Damon and having, as I do now, so much respect for him. I remember rooting for him, as a Brit, wanting him to succeed, even when he didn’t have a great car or a good team. So it’s definitely humbling when you see people who you’ve admired, you’ve watched and grown up taking inspiration from and having them say respectful things and positive things. That’s an amazing moment when that happens.”