Mercedes have a major decision to make for the 2022 Formula 1 season, but at least some of that is now officially out of the way.
Both Mercedes drivers, seven-time and four-time reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas, entered the 2021 Formula 1 season slated to become free agents at the end of the year.
Much of the speculation that has taken place throughout the first few months of the 23-race 2021 season has to do with whether they will re-sign Bottas for what would be a sixth season with the team in 2022, or promote George Russell, the Mercedes junior driver who is in the third year of a three-year deal with Williams.
But there was also still some uncertainty surrounding Hamilton’s future, especially given how contract talks panned out last year — and even well into 2021 — just for the 2021 season.
Hamilton and the team had repeatedly stated that they wanted to remain together for the 2022 season and beyond and that talks had begun about making that happen.
But that was what we heard throughout the 2020 season — in fact, we heard it even before the 2020 season was originally scheduled to begin last March — about the 2021 season, and yet it took the two sides until the month before the 2021 season began to finally agree to a new deal, making the 36-year-old Briton the 20th and final driver to be confirmed on this year’s grid.
That new deal was only a one-year deal, and some interesting comments made by Hamilton after signing it led many to believe that it may be his final contract with the Silver Arrows before retirement.
But now we know that this will not be the case.
This time around, Hamilton and the team did actually come to terms on a new deal quite quickly, doing so just eight races into the 2021 season to completely eliminate the potential for more contract drama heading into next season like we saw this year.
This new deal is a two-year extension, and even this one may very well not be his final contract with the team.
Here is what the 98-time Grand Prix winner had to say about signing with Mercedes through 2023.
“It is hard to believe it’s been nearly nine years working with this incredible team and I’m excited we’re going to continue our partnership for two more years.
“We’ve accomplished so much together but we still have a lot to achieve, both on and off the track. I’m incredibly proud and grateful of how Mercedes has supported me in my drive to improve diversity and equality in our sport. They have held themselves accountable and made important strides in creating a more diverse team and inclusive environment.
“Thank you to all the dedicated and talented individuals at Mercedes whose hard work makes it all possible and the Board for their continued trust in me. We’re entering a new era of car which will be challenging and exciting and I can’t wait to see what else we can achieve together.”
Here is what Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff had to add.
“His achievements in this sport speak for themselves, and with his experience, speed and race craft, he is at the peak of his powers. We are relishing the battle we have on our hands this year – and that’s why we also wanted to agree this contract early, so we have no distractions from the competition on track. I have always said that as long as Lewis still possesses the fire for racing, he can continue as long as he wants.”
Now the focus of the Brackley-based team as far as their driver lineup is concerned is solely on who will be Hamilton’s teammate in 2022, and there will surely be quite a bit of speculation leading up to when that decision is finally made.