Lewis Hamilton (ENG, Mercedes-Benz) broke or tied some of the most important records in F1 this year: he sits first with Michael Schumacher (DEU) in total titles with seven, broke the records for most career wins, most pole positions, most podiums, most races in the points, most races led from start to finish…
His numbers probably put him as the best sportsman in the world at the moment and the most successful F1 driver of all time.
But Hamilton has not renewed a contract for 2021. He earns 76 Million USD a year (Fox Australia) and rumor has it that his contract talks have not been smooth. In a year that has been catastrophic for car manufacturers, reducing a salary as high as Hamilton’s is certainly a way to cut costs when the car manufacturer is proposing a 20% reduction of their staff (TheBestF1).
One week ago, George Russell (ENG) replaced Lewis Hamilton for a race due to a positive covid test by the World Champion and he impressed even though he had never scored a point in Formula 1.
He led most of the race and was in contention for winning all throughout. And Valtteri Bottas (FIN) finished in a solid second place of the standings.
A Mercedes team without Hamilton could still fight for a World Championship next year considering that they will still have the fastest car and they could have a couple of strong drivers if they were to hire Russell.
But the result we see does not allow us to fully grasp how much of an asset Hamilton is to the team: his leadership, feedback, mental strength, commitment, racecraft, and strategic thinking might be unmatched by any other driver. Sure, Mercedes looked as if they could have won last week but they did not in the end. A Racing Point driven by Sergio Pérez (MEX) beat them, proving it takes more than just a fast car.
Lewis Hamilton wants to continue on the team. Mercedes certainly wants him on board. They are a partnership that is already one of the greatest in history of sport and they have all the incentive to continue making history together.
Yes, Mercedes could be a World Title contender without Lewis but they would not be pushing the limits of what has been humanly made in the past.
This is a shot of once in a lifetime and all parties involved know it. In the end, they will have to make numbers and come to an agreement but any of the two losing one another would not mean “things as usual” and would be a wasted chance to be the indisputable greatest team and driver of all time. And no other driver can offer that.