Mercedes could be morally holding Sir Lewis Hamilton to ransom over his contract negotiations, according to Dutch Grand Prix chief Jan Lammers.
Toto Wolff’s latest words this week on Mercedes’ protracted discussions with the seven-time World Champion driver were that a deal could be signed “soon” but that it will probably not extend to three years.
It is certainly dragging on, for pre-season testing in Bahrain is now less than six weeks away – closer than the final race of last year, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Various explanations have been suggested externally for the delay, most of which are based on the financial side.
Lammers thinks Mercedes could be taking the moral high ground in regard to constraints caused by the global health pandemic and also the new Formula 1 budget cap, which means the team are having to streamline their staff and redeploy resources.
Hamilton did, however, cite the effects of the pandemic as a reason why he had not rushed into contract talks last year.
“It could be that Hamilton is overestimating his market value and underestimating the situation in the world,” said ex-F1 driver Lammers in an interview with RacingNews365.
“Meanwhile, I think Mercedes are limited in what they can offer Hamilton morally. How can you justify it to the staff and the management that he continues to receive his multi-million salary while people elsewhere in the company have to lay off people?
“With these kinds of things, you have to be careful not to go too far. What Hamilton does not seem to fully realise is that there is, of course, a great opportunity for Mercedes as well.
“The company just wants to sell cars and then the question is ‘what do you get more from? Is that with the next world title?’
“That would be great, of course, but many people don’t care about that. Or would a statement against Hamilton’s multi-million dollar salary do more for loyalty?
“I personally think Mercedes have the chance to make a very powerful statement by stating that the loyalty lies with the Mercedes customers and employees and not with one sportsman. I think that has been a little under-exposed.”
Ultimately, Lammers thinks Hamilton will be the party that has to back down more than Mercedes in the negotiations.
“Personally, I think the chance that Mercedes will yield to Hamilton is many times smaller than the other way around,” he added.
“You never know what forces are at play, but I don’t think Mercedes will give in. If there is a deal on the table, it will be because an external party has come up with a solution.”