After months of speculation and rumours bouncing off all over the place, Lewis Hamilton has finally put pen to paper and signed a one-year contract extension with Mercedes, a deal commentator and former driver Martin Brundle has dubbed “unusual”.
It was expected that a deal would be agreed sooner or later, with the one-year extension coming just weeks before the start of the new campaign, which kicks off in Bahrain on March 28.
The British racer and Mercedes have dominated F1 since the start of the turbo-hybrid era in 2014. Their collaboration – one of the most successful in the history of the sport – has yielded seven consecutive constructors’ titles for Mercedes and six drivers’ titles for Hamilton (Nico Rosberg won the 2016 title).
This allowed Hamilton to equal Michael Schumacher in terms of titles won (seven) while surpassing him on race wins and poles. Renewing his contract will be Hamilton’s best chance to surpass the great German on all fronts (statistically at least).
On the subject, Brundle told Sky Sports F1: “I think it is very unusual, the situation alone. It has taken a long time, and for a team and a driver of such stature a one-year deal is unusual.”
Brundle elaborated: “It seemed like they couldn’t work it out, but had to force it because the new season is coming up. I think they thought: ‘The Winter Tests are coming, we have to do something’.
“A one-year deal leaves Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas his teammate and George Russell, the young driver who led of course when Hamilton was sidelined with COVID-19 back in Bahrain, all out of contract at the end of this year, as well as maybe a few other bandits like Max Verstappen, who could be on the market.”
“Clearly at least one of the parties wanted to keep their options open, I suspect that was Mercedes, so they put it to bed for this year and are saying they will sort 2022 out somewhat earlier,” Brundle added.
As Hamilton gears up to pursue the 2021 F1 drivers’ crown (his eighth if he succeeds), it remains to be seen how his new contract affects the dynamics within Mercedes, especially given that both drivers are on one-year contracts. This means that the most two coveted seats in F1 could be available by the end of the 2021 season.
With continuous rumours still linking Mercedes junior driver George Russell and Red Bull Racing ace Max Verstappen with the seat, and the uncertainty surrounding Valtteri Bottas’s position with the team after 2021, it is only fair to believe that there may be some major changes happening in the F1 landscape on the driver front.
The 2021 season may turn out to be quite interesting after all.