The preliminary plan for pre-season testing in F1 has cars on track in just a month and a half. We’re almost two weeks into 2021, and the grid still hasn’t been completely confirmed. The defending champion, a 7-time world champion in fact, Lewis Hamilton has still not been contracted to race in Formula 1 this year.
While it may seem like a foregone conclusion that Lewis will again drive the #44 car for Mercedes-AMG, there’s no telling just what might happen. Rumors abound that Lewis has been talking about retirement over the last year, and after the weirdest year in the sport’s history, this would just be another notch in the weird column. But if he’s not retiring, what’s the hold up?
The 2021 grid is now full bar Hamilton’s spot at the top, so despite the rumors that Hamilton was talking to Maranello about making the switch to red overalls last year, that’s a no-go for now. If he doesn’t re-up with Merc, that leaves just riding the pine bench in 2021, or perhaps jumping to another series, I suppose. Why are Mercedes hanging him out to dry like this?
It’s possible that Hamilton is asking for a substantial sum of money for his contract this year. With the idea of a driver salary cap coming in 2023, this would probably be wise to negotiate for a big sum in ‘21 and ‘22 before the cap comes into place. Is Mercedes willing to pay Hamilton hundreds of millions of dollars to land him for another year? Honestly, they should be.
Should Hamilton be willing to come back to Mercedes for any amount of money? Frankly, I’m not sure. Lewis rose above the label of driver across 2020. He was a changemaker, a statesman, a role model, and an all-time great. He stood up for the things he believes in, and was influential in getting his team and the rest of the sport to stand up alongside him. He’s done everything he can as a driver, but he’s just getting started as an influential part of the world.
Perhaps now is the time for Lewis to lean into his work crusading for change. He’s a humanitarian, a climate crusader, an agent for change in race relations, and a compassionate animal lover. These are things he truly believes in, and perhaps drive him forward even more than racing does these days. After you’ve won seven championships and set just about every record known to the sport, how much more can you really do?
I mean, he’s a knight now, which has to stand for something.
Here’s a fun exercise. Let’s think about who Mercedes might hire instead of Lewis for the 2021 season if things do shake out that way. Maybe there’s a reason why Nico Hulkenburg didn’t get a drive out of the massive contract shuffle during the silly season. Maybe he’s been in line to get Lewis’ seat. Maybe Lewis has already made his decision. Maybe Merc signed their new driver last summer and kept it a secret all this time. Crazier things have happened.