Mercedes F1 team boss and co-owner Toto Wolff have revealed that Lewis Hamilton is close to signing a new contract for Mercedes, but that he does not expect it to be a three-year contract due to various circumstances. Hamilton is the only unconfirmed driver for the new 201 F1 season, and his negotiations with Mercedes have been delayed due to Hamilton’s COVID-19 infection and have not ended a month and a half after the end of the season.
So far, Wolff has not wanted to reveal details about why he is late in signing a contract with the most successful driver of all time, but he told German RTL that he does not expect a new three-year contract. "I don't expect that," Wolff said.
“We see developments in the near future, not only with a budget constraint [from 2021] but also with a change in technical rules [for the 2022 season], where I think you have to keep your eyes open. We discuss the correct duration of the contract.
The contract should be signed soon
Wolff says he can’t announce that Hamilton has signed a new contract, but says they are ‘not far’ from it. "The decision should be made in time before the pre-season tests of Formula 1 in March.
Until then, we will have everything resolved. " The head of the Mercedes F1 team does not specify a specific date for the final negotiations and believes that the word ‘soon’ is a flexible term. "I guess we are not far from the announcement.
We don't want to be under pressure, but it has to be a reasonable deal. " According to Wolff, it is certain that Mercedes would like to keep Hamilton, at least in the medium term, and he says: "Lewis is not only incredibly important for the team, but also the Mercedes brand."
“But the landscape is changing right now. Next year we have a big change of rules. This year we have a budget constraint, which of course affects us as a bigger team. These are all factors that played a role in our discussions.
And also, of course, what does the future look like? ” As the signing of the contract takes longer than expected, theories have emerged that George Russell, who represented Hamilton in the 2020 Formula 1 season during his forced break due to a COVID-19 diagnosis in Bahrain, showed Mercedes that he had a replacement ready and would to weaken Hamilton's negotiating position.