Ex-Formula 1 chief Bernie Ecclestone thinks Mercedes should tell Sir Lewis Hamilton to “take it or leave it” as contract talks continue.
It is reported Hamilton and Mercedes are close to finally agreeing new terms for the 2021 season and beyond, but that Hamilton has demanded a clause which gives him a say on who his team-mate is from 2022.
And Ecclestone believes Mercedes should be telling Hamilton to take their offer or leave, arguing everyone is “replaceable”, even a seven-time World Champion and 95-time race winner in Hamilton.
“I would have made it quite clear to Lewis – either you take what we offer you now or you leave it. Everyone is replaceable. Only one person decides who drives here and that’s me,” Ecclestone told F1-Insider.com.
“In 1983 we [Brabham] became World Champion with Nelson Piquet. I had to decide who would drive alongside him in 1984. We had an extremely good test with a young Brazilian driver called Ayrton Senna. I wanted him.
“When Nelson heard about it, he really got upset and reacted like a defiant child. He absolutely did not want Senna as a team-mate. He immediately recognised his potential. But I didn’t care.”
In the end, Ecclestone ensured Senna got a drive with Toleman for 1984, since Piquet and also Brabham’s main sponsor Parmalat did not want Senna in the team.
“Our main sponsor Parmalat didn’t want two Brazilians. I weighed everything up carefully. In the end, peace in the team was more important to me,” Ecclestone explained.
“But since I was also the head of the constructors’ association, I made sure Senna got a job elsewhere, with Toleman. I knew he would be the future superstar, so I really wanted to see him in Formula 1.”
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Hamilton’s historic career has followed a similar path to that of the legendary Michael Schumacher, and in 2020 the Briton continued to send those records tumbling. The jewel in the crown was taking over the record for most career wins in Formula 1, while Hamilton also put himself alongside Schumacher atop the Formula 1 mountain with a seventh title.
The inter-team situations are also strikingly similar between the pair. In his glory days at Ferrari, Schumacher enjoyed clear number one status as he and Ferrari went on a run of five drivers’ and constructors’ Championships in a row from 2000-04, while in the present day Hamilton is the clear star of the Mercedes show alongside Valtteri Bottas even if the Finn is not officially recognised as a No 2 to Hamilton.
But Ecclestone says Schumacher did not even need a contract clause to give him a say in who his team-mate was.
“Michael didn’t even need a contract clause for that. He was the clear No 1, with him Ferrari wanted to return to the glory days,” he said.
“That’s why Jean Todt always asked him in advance whom he would like as a team-mate. Michael could live well with Eddie Irvine, Rubens Barrichello and Felipe Massa. If Michael had objected, they wouldn’t have ended up at Ferrari.”