Formula 1: Did Lewis Hamilton already reject a new deal?

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Formula 1 (Photo by TOLGA BOZOGLU/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Formula 1 (Photo by TOLGA BOZOGLU/POOL/AFP via Getty Images) /

Lewis Hamilton reportedly rejected a deal from Mercedes that did not meet his demands for the 2021 Formula 1 season, putting both sides in a precarious position.

The 2020 Formula 1 season came to an end nearly a month ago in Abu Dhabi at Yas Marina Circuit, when Red Bull’s Max Verstappen defeated Mercedes teammates Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton to win the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix for the first time.

Yet one of the 20 seats on the 2021 grid still does not have a confirmed driver for next year, and that seat happens to be the Mercedes seat which Hamilton has occupied since making the move from McLaren ahead of the 2013 season.

All throughout the 2020 season, Hamilton and the Silver Arrows brushed off rumors about the 36-year-old Briton’s future in Formula 1.

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They noted that they simply hadn’t had the time to hash out the details on a new contract for the seven-time champion.

But those rumors heated up in early August, once Bottas signed a one-year extension with the team and Hamilton had still yet to extend his contract.

To compare, Hamilton has won at least nine races in each of his four championship-winning seasons as Bottas’s teammate for a total of 42 victories. Bottas has won nine races total during that same span.

Still, both sides insisted that it simply hadn’t been the right time. Now, however, things are getting even more interesting.

Daimler, one of the three one-third shareholders of the team, reportedly rejected Hamilton’s demands for a new four-year, $200 million deal.

That deal would also reportedly pay Hamilton 10% of the team’s winnings should they win more world titles, deliver him a limited-production AMG One car, and also land him a role that “goes beyond being a driver and more than a mere testimonial”, which many believe would involve him assisting in the team’s approach into electric transition.

Now Hamilton has reportedly rejected a deal from the team, and a contingency plan is unknown. Hamilton signed a two-year extension in July of 2018, and Daimler, unhappy with his demands for 2021 and beyond, would ideally like to re-sign him for another two years, with a contract that contains a third-year option.

Whether or not fellow one-third shareholders Toto Wolff and Ineos oppose Hamilton’s demands is unknown. Either way, things are setting up for a negotiation period that could very well alter the trajectory of the sport.

Meanwhile, George Russell, the Mercedes junior who replaced Hamilton for the Sakhir Grand Prix at Bahrain International Circuit after Hamilton tested positive for COVID-19 and thrived in his lone Mercedes start, lurks as a much cheaper option to drive the car that has won the last four and six of the last seven world championships. As of now, he is set to return to Williams for 2021.

Hamilton reportedly has until the end of February to come to terms with Mercedes on a new deal. Preseason testing at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya is scheduled to run from Tuesday, March 2 to Thursday, March 4, with the season scheduled to begin on Sunday, March 21 with the Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park Grand Prix Circuit.

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It is, however, expected that the season will not begin until Sunday, March 28 with the Bahrain Grand Prix at Bahrain International Circuit, due to coronavirus pandemic-related restrictions in Melbourne, Australia.