‘Lewis Hamilton’s expensive £60m contract could tempt Mercedes to look elsewhere’
Lewis Hamilton’s expensive £60million contract could tempt Mercedes to go looking for a replacement for the 2024 Formula 1 season, one of Britain’s leading sports commentators has suggested.
With his current contract set to expire at the end of this year, doubts have surfaced over Hamilton’s future at Mercedes following the team’s poor start to the new season.
Hamilton failed to finish higher than fifth in the first two races of 2023 in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, having suffered the first winless season of his storied career in Mercedes’ troublesome 2022 campaign.
In the immediate aftermath of the season opener in Sakhir, Hamilton criticised the Mercedes technical team for ignoring his guidance on the development direction of the W14 car, with team boss Toto Wolff acknowledging a change of car concept is required for the team to return to race-winning ways.
Writing in a column for The Times newspaper, Matthew Syed has claimed Hamilton may face a decision between staying loyal to Mercedes and pursuing more success with another team.
He explained: “This is why the question of his future is so tantalising. He benefited hugely from the world-class engineering at Mercedes in the good years and doubtless feels a sense of loyalty.
“But with one season left on his contract, he may be wondering whether there is a different ride out there that may enable him to leave on a high.”
Having joined Mercedes from McLaren in 2013, Hamilton equalled Michael Schumacher’s record of seven titles in 2021 and became the first driver in F1 history to win more than 100 races – but is without a win since the penultimate round of the 2021 season.
Bernd Malyander on Lewis Hamilton’s habit of ‘hiding behind the Safety Car’
Jeremy Clarkson: F1 is better on TV and doesn’t work as a live event
Scrapping practice sessions would hurt the F1 product, not help it
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner recently rejected the notion that he could move to sign the British driver for 2024, but Syed believes the sight of Hamilton and Verstappen in the same team could re-energise the sport.
However, he also raised the possibility that Mercedes could pursue a cheaper option after Hamilton was outqualified in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia by team-mate George Russell, who claimed the team’s only victory of 2022 in Brazil.
“It’s unlikely he would gain a berth at Red Bull, but the prospect of Hamilton and Verstappen going head to head in the same car – the ageing maestro against the audacious pretender – is a storyline that could take the sport to a new level,” he wrote.
“Perhaps there’s also a chance that Mercedes can get their act together, find a way of getting the car up to speed.
“The teamwork between driver and engineers may find renewed life, giving Hamilton a shot at the dream he craves.
“It is also possible – and many Hamilton detractors have raised this prospect – that Mercedes may end the relationship at the end of this season, given the expense of his reported £60million contract.”
Despite his current struggles, Syed is convinced that Hamilton will enjoy a happy ending to his F1 career having insisted that he will not walk away until he secures a record eighth title.
“What seems clear, to me at least, is that Hamilton will ‘find a way’. He will rage against the dying of the light. He will agitate against the disadvantage of an underperforming car,” he added.
“He will continue to bet on himself against the rigours of time and mechanical underperformance, seeking out the glimmer of opportunity that he’s so often found on the track.
“It may manifest itself in a new design or a new team, but I don’t see this story petering out just yet.
“Indeed, I think a compelling new chapter is still to come in this remarkable journey.”