Formula 1: Lewis Hamilton is no longer a member of Mercedes

Lewis Hamilton’s contract with the Mercedes Formula 1 team expired at the end of last week. As a result, he is officially a free agent and no longer a member of the team.

Within a week after the 2020 Formula 1 season concluded in Abu Dhabi with the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit, 19 of the 20 seats on the grid for the 2021 season had confirmed drivers.

The one that didn’t happened to be the seat that has won the last four and six of the last seven world championships: the Mercedes seat occupied by seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton since he joined the Silver Arrows from McLaren in 2013.

Throughout the 2020 season, he and the team dismissed rumors of a potential retirement for the soon-to-be 36-year-old Briton after the year ended, noting that a lack of a contract extension had come down to timing.

But when teammate Valtteri Bottas, who has won just nine races compared to Hamilton’s 42 since the pair became teammates ahead of the 2017 season, was signed to a one-year extension in early August while Hamilton still didn’t have a deal done, that speculation only began to heat up even more.

Recent reports indicate that Daimler, one of the team’s three one-third shareholders, have rejected his lofty demands to return to the team in 2021 on a four-year deal worth $200 million and including several other perks, including 10% of the team’s winnings in championship-winning seasons, a limited-production AMG One car and a role that “goes beyond being a driver and more than a mere testimonial”. Additional reports indicate that Hamilton himself has rejected an offer from the team.

And with all of that in mind, one thing cannot get lost in the shuffle: Hamilton is officially a free agent. His previous contract, which he and the team extended by two years back in July of 2018, officially expired on Friday, January 1, 2021.

That’s right; Lewis Hamilton is no longer an official member of the team.

Of course, that could still change; the scheduled start of the season is still more than two months away.

But if he is to ultimately decline a return to the sport’s top team for 2021, he won’t end up competing anywhere else in Formula 1 during the upcoming season, given the fact that all 19 of the other seats on the grid have confirmed drivers.

Is it really just a matter of time before Hamilton signs an extension, or is it time to seriously consider the possibility that Mercedes will find a new teammate for Bottas in 2021 and that Hamilton’s career will end with seven world championships and 95 Grand Prix victories?

He reportedly has until the end of February, which is just days before preseason testing is scheduled to take place at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, to come to an agreement with Mercedes on a contract for next year.