The British driver’s contract – worth a cool £40 million a year – with the German firm comes to an end at the conclusion of this year’s campaign, and so far negotiations over an extension have stalled.
It is believed that the 35-year-old’s tenure at Mercedes hinges on the future of Toto Wolff, the team’s principal and a close friend of Hamilton’s.
Speculation in the press has suggested that Wolff’s time at Mercedes may also be coming to an end, with his own close kinship with Racing Point chief Lawrence Stoll the key contributor to the rumour mill.
Stoll has just acquired a major shareholding of 25% in Aston Martin, and the belief is that he wants the Austrian to take on the role of chief executive in the firm. Racing Point will take on the Aston Martin branding in 2021, and Wolff’s success at Mercedes has prompted his friend to increase his efforts in persuading him to take on a new challenge.
The pair travelled back together from the cancelled Australian Grand Prix, which would have certainly given them plenty of time to talk.
Wolff has spoken of his desire to take over as chief executive of Formula One in the future, although the current incumbent Chase Carey has largely been praised for the manner in which he has handled the 2020 campaign thus far in the wake of the many postponements.
Besides, it would be natural for there to be opposition to Wolff taking his place in the F1 hotseat given his allegiances to Mercedes.
Verstappen and Leclerc On the Radar
Whether it’s coincidence or not, it’s clear that Lewis Hamilton‘s success in F1 has been indelibly linked with that of Toto Wolff.
The pair have linked up for all five of Hamilton’s title wins at Mercedes, and that closeness on and off the track has made it all the more surprising that the Brit hasn’t committed his long-term future to the cause – especially as he is a red-hot favourite in the latest 2020 Drivers’ Championship F1 betting odds to equal Michael Schumacher’s haul of seven triumphs.
Back in February, Wolff was suitably vague when quizzed about Hamilton’s future with the German company. “We would like to have the fastest man in the car, and I know that Lewis wants to be in the fastest car”. It’s not exactly concrete confirmation that an extension is likely to be penned.
Quoted by The Independent newspaper, Wolff suggested that the long-term deals signed by Verstappen and Leclerc at Red Bull and Ferrari respectively may not necessarily secure their loyalty to the cause.
“Probably sometimes the detail is what is important, and not the overhead line on how long a contract has been signed,” he said, which does little to refute the suggestion that a major replacement for Hamilton is currently being scouted.
If this is to be the end of a magnificent era for Hamilton, Wolff and Mercedes, you can rest assured that they will be eyeing a significant replacement ahead of the 2021 campaign.