Ranked: The five possible F1 options facing Lewis Hamilton in order of likelihood
Mercedes are once again struggling to put a title-worthy challenger on the track in F1 2023, leaving Lewis Hamilton at a career crossroads.
A poor start to Formula 1’s new era with ground-effect cars in 2022 was a tough blow for Mercedes to take, their W13 taking just one pole and victory all season, both scored by George Russell.
But the team remained confident that this was just a blip, and while unsure of when they would return to title-winning ways, they expected to be far closer to that scene from the start in F1 2023.
Arguably though the team has only gone backwards, something that has clearly stung Hamilton who has publicly claimed that the team did not listen to him when he told them what the W14 needed, while he also spoke about the “miserable” feeling of driving a car which he cannot “connect” with.
Perhaps it is these struggles which have led him to now remove the veil somewhat on his laser-focused pursuit of World Championship number eight, a record that in the past he had played down the significance of to him.
But as his frustration evidently grows over Mercedes’ lack of progress towards getting him into position to achieve that goal, we see five options on the table for Hamilton with his current Mercedes deal set to end after the F1 2023 campaign.
Let’s run through those options, starting with what we feel is the most likely scenario down to the least likely.
One-year Mercedes extension
Right now this feels like Hamilton’s most probable move, and the one which Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff perhaps expects to happen judging by his comments on Hamilton’s future ahead of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.
“I don’t think that Lewis will leave Mercedes,” he said. “Nevertheless, if he wants to win another championship, he needs to make sure that he has the car and if we cannot demonstrate that we’re able to give him a car in the next couple of years, then he needs to look everywhere.
“I don’t think he’s doing it at this stage, but I will have no grouch if that happens in a year or two.”
With that in mind, Mercedes still appear pretty confident that Hamilton is at least going to give them a little more time to come good, this the team that won eight Constructors’ titles in a row between 2014-2021, Hamilton winning six Drivers’ titles in that time.
Mercedes have effectively written off their initial W14 concept and a major upgrade is coming, so if the team can make strides again as F1 2023 goes on, then Hamilton could well sign up for an extra year and give Mercedes the chance to show that any improvement is not a false dawn this time.
However, it is still a rather awkward sight to see the seven-time World Champion, who possesses the most wins, poles and podiums of all time in Formula 1, struggling to even make himself a podium contender these days.
And after all that success, it is safe to say that Hamilton will get little satisfaction out of pounding around the race track without a sniff of a victory chance.
Hamilton is not short on projects outside of Formula 1, his business interests covering fashion, food, sports, film and more, while his charitable contributions equally are a great source of pride for the Brit.
So, if he decides that he has had enough of lapping behind the leaders, and does not see Mercedes returning to the front anytime soon, then he may decide that it is better to call it a legendary career and move on to the next chapter of his life.
Take a sabbatical
Or, does he walk away temporarily? Fernando Alonso did that back in 2018 after a frustrating time with McLaren as their Honda reunion flopped in a major way. He returned to the sport in 2021 with Alpine, and now having switched to Aston Martin, the Spaniard is loving Formula 1 life and driving as well as he ever has.
So, perhaps Hamilton could do with a year or two away from the sport to mentally recharge, asses his options and choose the right team to finally win that eighth World title with?
However, considering the list of outside interests that we just mentioned, it really feels like that when Hamilton walks away from racing in Formula 1, he will do so for good.
If Hamilton was then to actually decide to take a sabbatical after F1 2023, it feel like this one would go how Mika Hakkinen’s did, rather than Alonso’s.
The issue also with taking a break and coming back later is that Hamilton is almost like part of the furniture at the Mercedes team now, so seeing him racing with a different team would almost just not feel right.
“He is at the stage of his career where we trust each other,” said Mercedes boss Wolff. “We have formed a great bond among each other. We have no reason to doubt each other, even though this is a difficult spell.”
So, if Hamilton has no reason to doubt Mercedes, then surely he will just sign a new multi-year deal to commit to the recover effort? Well, we just cannot see that happening just yet considering his current frustration and that final, ultimate record of an eighth World Championship which is so important to him looking so far away.
Should Hamilton extend his Mercedes stay beyond F1 2023, then it surely will be by no more than a year initially.
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Join a rival team
And so we move onto scenario five, where Hamilton does decide that Mercedes are no longer championship material and he finds a team that he thinks are, or at least very soon will be.
The obvious team is the dominant Red Bull outfit, but while the fans would absolutely love to see bitter F1 2021 title rivals Max Verstappen and Hamilton as Red Bull team-mates, we doubt Red Bull are such gluttons for punishment, and Verstappen would probably never accept it anyway.
Maybe Aston Martin then? The ambitious Silverstone squad bear many similarities to Mercedes when Hamilton left McLaren to join them, Mercedes at that time an outfit with gutsy plans to ascend to title glory, and we know how that turned out.
Perhaps Hamilton could repeat that gamble then on Aston Martin, who now look to be the current second-fastest team behind Red Bull in race trim after a huge performance leap for F1 2023. That could see Hamilton re-unite with his former McLaren team-mate Alonso, which would surely promise fireworks, as that pair have still been lighting them as recently as last season.
That probably is not the sticking point though, it would be Lance Stroll in the other Aston Martin, as Lawrence Stroll is almost certainly never going to fire his son.
That leaves Ferrari then as the only other team that look anything like title challengers anytime soon, even though there has not been a Drivers’ title winner from Ferrari since Hamilton’s rookie season in 2007.
Somehow though, it just feels like the time has long since passed on Hamilton and Ferrari forging an iconic partnership despite talk around the two parties resurfacing over the last few weeks.
It would be a huge shock to see Hamilton racing for anyone other than Mercedes at this stage of his career.
So, those are the options which we believe are on the table for Hamilton, with a one-year Mercedes extension the most likely outcome, and Hamilton joining a rival team extremely unlikely to transpire.
But now we want your thoughts. Do you agree with our order? Is there another option which you see for Hamilton? Let us know in the comments section.