Lewis Hamilton fans can now breathe a collective sigh of relief. The defending Formula One champ signed a 1-year extension to drive for the Mercedes-Benz AMG team this coming 2021 season.
While this may not come as a surprise to some, it was unusual that the announcement took that long. After the record-breaking 2020 season, Hamilton did not yet have a finalized contract to race in the upcoming season.
By logic, it's easy for Hamilton to re-sign for the team. Besides, why leave for the constructor that gave him six of his seven titles? Also, 2020 saw him match the legendary Michael Schumacher with 7 Drivers World Championships and a new record for Grand Prix wins with 95 career victories. So, what's the hold-up?
Several factors contributed to the delay. The first reason was Mercedes-Benz opting to hold contract talks towards the tail end of the season to let Hamilton focus on securing his 7th Drivers World Championship. Also, Hamilton tested positive for Covid-19 that forced him to miss the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix. Lastly, the ongoing pandemic had made contract talks difficult as face-to-face meetings were out of the question during the postseason.
The delay also allowed several fans and pundits to speculate the reason for the delayed negotiations. Some pundits said Hamilton insisted on a higher salary, along with other demands that caused a stalemate between him and the team. Others mentioned Hamilton, having already become the winningest driver in the sport's history, was contemplating retirement, which would promote the young up and comer in George Russell who had impressed when he stepped in for Hamilton during the Sakhir Grand Prix.
Nonetheless, both parties have reached an agreement and remain positive for the upcoming season. “I am excited to be heading into my ninth season with my Mercedes teammates," "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,” said Hamilton.
It may be a foregone conclusion to some that Hamilton will secure his 8th Drivers World Championship this year and statistically become the greatest driver of all time. But if there is one thing F1 proved over the years, the sport is still capable of surprises while the rest of the grid is hot on the heels of the dominant driver and team combo.