F1

Lewis Hamilton contract: Mercedes silence speaks volumes and could pave way for exit

Lewis Hamilton compared to Schumacher by David Coulthard

When Lewis Hamilton cruised to another F1 Drivers’ Championship in 2020, a new contract with Mercedes seemed a formality. After all, just why would the Silver Arrows NOT keep their star driver? But, months on, and the 36-year-old’s future with the team remains up in the air despite his desire to extend his stay.

Hamilton was irresistible last year, finishing way ahead of Valtteri Bottas and Max Verstappen in the Formula One standings.

In the aftermath of his triumph he expressed a belief he’d extend his stay, admitting he was eager to achieve yet more success.

But, months on, and a new contract still hasn’t been signed.

There had been talk of a move to Ferrari but that’s now dead in the water, with Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz instead poised to compete for them this year.

And Hamilton is technically a free agent at the current moment in time.

Earlier in January, Mercedes were happy to downplay some speculation over his future.

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They told Express Sport talk of him having four demands were wide of the mark, insisting they were relaxed over Hamilton’s future.

But their latest decision not to comment on rumours that they’ve only offered a one-year extension speaks volumes.

It suggests that the Silver Arrows have indeed only pitched a short-term deal, rather than a longer contract, something that’s unlikely to please their star asset.

And it means an agreement appears to be a long way off, which could now pave the way for a sensational exit.

Hamilton would love to stay in F1, determined to move out in front of the iconic Michael Schumacher as the best driver of all time.

But with Mercedes unwilling to give him the contract he wants, an exit is now looking increasingly feasible.

Mercedes could swoop for George Russell as a replacement, with Williams reportedly open to letting the 22-year-old go.

And what ultimately happens remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, former F1 star Jenson Button believes Hamilton is ‘definitely in the mix’ when it comes to being regarded as the greatest driver of all time.

“He’s definitely in the mix [for best ever],” Button recently told PlanetF1.

“Formula 1 is a very unusual sport. It is a team sport and that was proven when George Russell jumped in the Mercedes car.

“He is normally qualifying P15/P16 at Williams and then suddenly he is qualifying second to Valtteri Bottas and closer to what Lewis managed at the previous race when he was in the car.

“Then in the race, George gets past him and pulls away and was nine seconds ahead at one point. So it’s very difficult to judge the best driver because it is a full package thing.

“It’s car, it’s driver, it’s strategist, it’s making sure every mechanic is doing their job correctly, it’s pit stops, it’s a full team effort and that’s why I love Formula 1.

“But when you try and compare every driver and try and say is it more the car or driver, they are all pointless things because you can never answer that.

“But Lewis is definitely one of the best drivers that has ever driven in Formula 1.”

Button then added: “However you can’t compare him to Fangio or Senna, you can compare him to who he is racing against but then again he is in different equipment.

“But you can put him up there with Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel. When you look at Seb he had a really weird year but he has to be one of the greats. He won four back-to-back titles.

“It’s tricky but Lewis is definitely up there and, in terms of outright pace, he is probably the quickest over one lap. But a Grand Prix isn’t just one lap and so you have to throw a lot of great drivers into the mix.

“Michael Schumacher for example for his dedication. His outright speed probably wasn’t on the same level as Lewis Hamilton but his dedication and how much time and effort he put in.

“Some of his moves were questionable on track but one of the things you can definitely say for Lewis and what I really like about him is he is very straightforward.

“He’s a great racer, great to race wheel-to-wheel with and he will never do anything outside of the rules. He is a very clean driver.”

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