Re-signing Hamilton

BAHRAIN INTERNATIONAL CIRCUIT, BAHRAIN - NOVEMBER 29: Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W11 EQ Performance, leads Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB16 during the Bahrain GP at Bahrain International Circuit on Sunday November 29, 2020 in Sakhir, Bahrain. (Photo by Andy Hone / LAT Images)

All platitudes aside, Formula 1 is a tough business. There’s no doubt that Mercedes has been elated with the performance of Lewis Hamilton and there’s little doubt that Lewis has enjoyed the most dominant car F1 has ever seen as he cruised to his 7th world title. It has been a marriage of one very talented driver with one very dominant car and the result has been a 7-year honeymoon.

But those days are behind Mercedes now and as they face the stark reality of the 2021 season with all of its unknowns, they do so with a signed 1-year deal for Valtteri Bottas and little else as Lewis Hamilton is holding out for the mother of all contracts that would include a post-retirement job with Mercedes doing equity or sustainability work of some kind.

The Sakhir Grand Prix is just one race but that one race was indicative of the kind of performance we’ve seen for most of the year from Bottas. While many are quick to blame bad luck, I tend to think we’ve seen everything we’re going to see from Valtteri and I advocated bringing George Russell up to the team in 2020 instead of Valtteri as this would have allowed two years, at least, as an understudy to Hamilton. Now I am even more convinced of that move for 2021. In fact, not to do so would be working against the team’s better interest.

George Russell did many thing last weekend. He reminded Mercedes why he was their junior driver. He suggested that, unlike Bottas, he could start the race, gap the field and managed that gap and his tires to victory. Very much what Hamilton is known for these days. He suggested that in the end, perhaps a mega contract for Lewis on a long-term basis wasn’t the only option the team had for the future.

Many suggest that Max Verstappen is eyeing Mercedes and they him. That may or may not be true but the reality is, I wouldn’t resign Hamilton at this point if I ran Mercedes.

Now I know that’s just plain stupidity but to be honest, we have one more season with these current regulations…nothing changes next year. Given the long-term goal of the team, signing a massive $140 million dollar deal giving Lewis the keys to a Mercedes AMG black label, making him king of the Mercedes brand, setting him up with a multi-million dollar post-racing role is not the best use of the companies resources.

In a time of COVID and austerity, paying Lewis millions and millions of dollars so he can win his 8th title and then be a Mercedes equity and sustainability ambassador doesn’t make a lot of fiscal sense to me given the struggles the company is going through as well as the world.

Lewis’s 8th title is a personal achievement, Mercedes has nothing to prove having won 7 titles on the trot but what they do have to do is think about the future, the regulation changes in 2021 and who will lead that team into the new era.

There was a time that I couldn’t understand how Ferrari could show Michael Schumacher the door. In the end, I came to understand that move. If I were Mercedes, I would offer a modest 1-year deal to Lewis and if he didn’t take it, I would move George in for 2021.

Now I know you’re thinking this is complete stupidity as Red Bull, Ferrari or Renault would snatch Lewis up in a heartbeat. I think Red Bull would pass as a Max and Lewis ticket would be a crime scene.

Consider that no matter where Lewis might go in 2021, the cars aren’t changing and he wouldn’t have the ride to compete with Mercedes. The team hold the cards in this negotiation and George simply reminded them of that last weekend.

Having George and Valtteri in 2021 and then George and possibly Max in 2022 would be a daunting lineup. If they couldn’t get Max, then another rising star like Leclerc, Norris or even a Ricciardo or Perez. There are several options.

What George did last weekend showed that while no one is suggesting he is on par with Lewis, he can deliver Lewis-like performances in his car. Not even Lewis could have avoided the clown show pit stop and a slow puncture. George had that race won and did so by managing a gap to Bottas just like Lewis usually does.

George isn’t Lewis (very few are), he’s George and if I ran Mercedes, I would close the chapter on a too-expensive Lewis and open a new book on a very affordable George and the long-term vision for the team. I would be more concerned about the 2022 changes and the drivers I had poised to lead that new era than getting Lewis $140M corporate job and an 8th title. You might say the team owe it to Lewis, no, they don’t. They paid him millions for the seven years he performed like the champ he is.

As the Schumacher-Ferrari divorce shows, there comes a time when all good things end and you have to look forward. Being good stewards of the resources this team and Mercedes have is paramount in times such as these. George represents the best chance to do so without losing a lot of skills and competitiveness for the future.

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Philip Pegler

Indeed. I absolutely agree. It makes perfect sense.

Xean Drury

As devil’s advocate though, it would be better to have HAM and RUS for a season (as one race is a poor sample). BOT is a very good racer, but he’s not going to be a number one on that team, and he’s not willing to go to where Rosberg went to to beat HAM.

Tom Firth

So why couldn’t they put Lewis in the car till end of 2022 (2 more year contract) and then pay him to do his ambassadorial stuff with them anyway? He wants a long term contract within the organisation, fair enough but less certain he wants a long term driving contract it appears which is what it seems you think the roadblock? They get to move on from Lewis from a racing perspective in two years, get the development of the car from him in year one and get what Daimler and Hamilton want on the ambassadorial stage and the benefits… Read more »

Last edited 3 years ago by Tom Firth
Paul Kiefer

The flip side of that argument: If they don’t re-sign him, it can turn into a PR nightmare. Do the arguments against outweigh the arguments in favor of not re-signing Hamilton, and are you really willing to take that risk? “The Lady or the Tiger?”

Related to Bottas: If he’s not there, where’s he going to go? Does he have a future at this point?

Last edited 3 years ago by Paul Kiefer

Agree, give Goerge a Merc car and he will sow what he can do – again

Peter Riva

Speaking from an entertainment POV–and since everyone says F1 is now all about entertainment–Hamilton falls short everywhere except the UK. Simply put, he has not reached out globally, building a brand as a sportsman/celebrity across all borders. You can put that blame on whatever his organization is. The most he ever did–and it worked brilliantly–were those ads where he was swapping seats with Nascar… but for the past 5 years, have you seen one TV ad or one print ad or one radio ad with Hamilton as a celebrity–a star? Sure, in F1 he’s the celebrity winner, but ask yourself… Read more »

Tom Firth

Lewis hasn’t built a global brand? What? He’s the driver who absolutely transcends the sport, He’s aspirational to generations, he has huge endorsements with Tommy Hilfiger including his own fashion brand with them, Bose headphones, Puma and Mercedes Benz among others which is hugely above the value of other F1 driver endorsements, he’s a huge ambassador for many causes and relates extremely well with people and is absolutely massive on social media. If there is one F1 driver in the world the general public does know, Its Lewis Hamilton.

Last edited 3 years ago by Tom Firth
Tom Firth

That well known F1 driver the public knows known as Patrick Mahomes you mean? :-) Who is he anyway?

Paul Kiefer

I knew about Bose, Puma and Merc long before Hamilton.

Peter Riva

I hear you. I understand… but ask yourself one question: where are the MB car commercials in Canada, USA, Japan, Brazil, China, etc. Nope, none. There is a reason for this that Daimler Benz Berlin HQ knows all too well. IT IS UNFORTUNATE, but reality.

Marc Gardner

I love Lewis, but he needs to go so we can move on from his woke politics and get back to racing.

Worthless Opinion

I think your reasoning is sound, but from a PR perspective no global brand in 2020 will sack a black champion for a caucasian journeyman and risk a permanent boycott. Especially not if you’re krauts, your chances to seem inclusive just aren’t piled around to be wasted. But to your point I would push him on the money. He wants to break the tie and he can only do it in the Merc. Merc wants the championship and they can do it without him. Their bargaining position is strong after this weekend and they should use it.

Marc Gardner

“…there comes a time when all good things end.” Ask Bill Belichick.

Hamilton is Brady’esque…both aliens. Put LH alongside MV at Red Bull and Mercedes lose the constructors title. Earlier this year Toto claimed Mercedes F1 represented $4.5B advertising value to Daimler, LH drives much of this value…his salary demands are trifling. Lewis is the Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 team quarterback…age 36 is young for a QB in 2021.