Lewis Hamilton has signed a two-year deal to drive for Mercedes until at least the end of 2023.
Lewis Hamilton has penned a new two-year deal with Mercedes worth approximately £80m
The 36-year-old is locked in a tense championship battle with Max Verstappen this season
Hamilton’s contract extension was thrashed out in a matter of weeks. Talks started in May and he signed on Friday. That is in contrast to how negotiations on his current one-year deal dragged on into February, little more than a month before the start of the season, and strained relations.
This time it was all much easier, not least because Mercedes restored Hamilton to his pre-Covid salary, having reduced his pay to around £30m in light of the pandemic.
The Stevenage-born star will be a few weeks shy of his 39th birthday when his new contract expires, but team principal Toto Wolff does not think his star man will be ready to retire by then.
‘I’m pretty sure it’s not his last contract,’ said the Austrian. ‘Lewis always flirts with the thought this may be the last one to keep his options in mind. But this is not going to be his last.’
Toto Wolff admitted he is ‘pretty sure it’s not’ Hamilton’s last contract with Mercedes
Hamilton has every one of his titles with Mercedes, the first in 2008 as engine partners to McLaren and the next six in the Silver Arrows team. It is the most successful collaboration in the sport’s history.
Hamilton said: ‘Mercedes are my family. I have been with them since I was 13 (when they first backed him), so it is really easy to continue. I enjoy working with everyone and there is lots we can do together on and off the track and in the paddock.’
That was a nod to the diversity work that is likely to be an area of interest he will look to develop in the latter years of his career.
Referring to next year’s overhaul of the regulations, Hamilton added: ‘We’re entering a new era of car which will be challenging and exciting and I can’t wait to see what else we can achieve together.’
Hamilton has won seven world titles with Mercedes and will hope to make it eight this season
But first he must deal with this season’s title contest and it is proving tricky. Verstappen took pole without unfurling his best lap. Hamilton was three-tenths back, fearing an even more painful weekend than last, when the Dutchman took a commanding victory on the same track in the Styrian Grand Prix.
‘We continue to lack pace,’ said Hamilton. ‘We have tried everything to get more out of the car but this is our underlying speed at the moment. We have really got to find performance in the following races.’
Is a win out of the question?
‘I would say so. I have got two cars to get by and Red Bull have improved this weekend. It is an easy cruise for Max. I have to try and get ahead of at least Perez to limit the damage.’
Hamilton’s deal will see him compete for the team under the new regulations from next season
While Mercedes struggle, Norris blossoms. This was the best qualifying lap of his young career — his first front-row start — and it left the Somerset-born racer feeling ‘epic’.
Context was provided by his more experienced and vaunted team-mate Daniel Ricciardo once again being dramatically outshone as he qualified 13th.
It was a happy day for the other emerging British talent, George Russell. He qualified ninth in his jalopy of a Williams, before moving up a slot when Sebastian Vettel was demoted three places for impeding Fernando Alonso.
Russell’s latest exhibition of rising above his machinery served as a timely reminder to Wolff as he weighs up whether to replace Valtteri Bottas, fifth fastest yesterday, with a new partner for Hamilton.
Yes, please! Hamilton versus Russell would spark fireworks and if I were F1 supremo Stefano Domenicali, I would be seeing what I could do to make it happen.