After Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton said he wanted to stay with Mercedes for another year, which seems likely to happen even though Hamilton hasn’t put pen to paper on a new contract yet. But Hamilton’s definitely done after next season if he wins a record eighth title, right?
The case is pretty simple: Currently tied with Michael Schumacher for the record at seven titles, an eighth title in 2021 would send Hamilton clear of Schumacher. Next year is also the last year before sweeping rules changes in 2022, which may or may not eliminate Mercedes’ edge but is an element of unpredictability that Hamilton may not want to deal with. Hamilton has also said he won’t do this forever.
Further, George Russell’s fine performance subbing in for Hamilton at the Sakhir Grand Prix had an heir-apparent feel to it, leaving Hamilton’s replacement staring Mercedes in the face, rather than uncertainty. Hamilton will also be 36 at the end of next season, or a year younger than Schumacher was when he first retired, as good a retirement age as any.
Still further, with eight titles Hamilton can stake a legitimate claim to being the greatest driver ever. Some people will always say that Juan Manuel Fangio is the greatest driver of all time; other people will always say that Aryton Senna is the greatest driver of all time; still other people will make a wild-eyed claim that Niki Lauda is the greatest driver of all time. To each of those people an eight-time winning Hamilton can simply point to the scoreboard, and explain that each title-winning season he beat another driver — his teammate — who was driving the exact same car.
And while I respect the true lunatics of the sports world who never know when to stop — you know, the Michael Jordans, the Pete Roses, the Bill Belichicks, the Zinedine Zidanes, the list goes on forever — Hamilton doesn’t seem to be one of those. Or at least you get the sense that Hamilton is in that class in terms of ultra-competitiveness but also that Hamilton knows when to stop. We already have a glimpse of his future after he founded an Extreme E team in September.
Thus cementing his Formula One glory with an eighth title next season seems ideal. What if Hamilton keeps racing beyond that and some young punk like Max Verstappen or Charles Leclerc catches him? That simply won’t do. So, Lewis Hamilton is definitely retiring after next season, right?