Rumor: Hamilton contract talks now ‘a game of chess’ – may sit out 2021 (2nd Update)

(GMM) It is not clear if Lewis Hamilton will be on the Formula 1 grid in 2021.

That is the sensational claim of Stefano Domenicali, who recently took over from Chase Carey to serve as the sport’s new CEO.

Amid raging speculation about Hamilton’s long-delayed contract negotiations with Ferrari, Domenicali said he spoke to the seven time world champion at Christmas.

“We spoke in the Christmas period,” he told the Italian broadcaster Sky Sport 24.

“He is preparing – and no, he is not telling me if he will sign or not sign the renewal with Mercedes.”

Domenicali, however, joins those who hope that the contract impasse will ultimately result in a new deal for the 36-year-old British driver.

“He has a great opportunity, not only speaking in terms of sports, to be the strongest in the world. He can continue to have a role that goes beyond the sporting dimension,” he said.

“To be champion is one thing, but it’s another to do it in another dimension. So, I am convinced, and I hope, especially as an interested party, that everything can be resolved quickly.”

January 20, 2021 

There is a “real chance” that George Russell could replace Sir Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes for 2021, according to Formula 1 News.

Hamilton’s contract with the Silver Arrows expired at the end of 2020, with discussions still ongoing over a new deal.

However, his requests for a multi-year extension and a pay rise on his previous contract appear to have delayed proceedings. Hamilton’s Mercedes seat is the only one on the grid yet to be assigned for 2021.

George Russell (GBR) Williams Racing.

Formula 1 News state that, according to their source inside the F1 paddock, there is a “real chance” that Russell, who is contracted to Williams for next season but is also a Mercedes junior driver, could be signed up instead of the seven-time world champion.

Russell had his first experience of driving a Mercedes whilst filling in for Hamilton at the Sakhir Grand Prix in Bahrain, after the 36-year-old tested positive for COVID-19.

When asked about the progression of Hamilton’s contract talks last month, Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff explained: “We are not worried about eventually getting it done.

“We are not putting a special date to it because we don’t want to be under pressure.

“Sooner or later it needs to be done and at the latest before we go testing [ahead of the 2021 season].”

January 15, 2021 

(GMM) Mercedes is not commenting on reports about the status of Lewis Hamilton’s reportedly difficult negotiations over a new contract.

Some believe the parties are arguing essentially over money, while Autosprint’s Alessandro Gargantini believes Mercedes is only putting a one-year deal worth EUR 35 million on the table.

One of the sticking points could be the future of George Russell, who impressed at the wheel of Hamilton’s car in Bahrain when the seven time world champion had covid-19.

“It would not surprise us if Hamilton wants to play an active role in the choice of the second driver after 2021,” Gargantini wrote.

According to the Italian magazine, Russell’s surprise performance in Bahrain may have thrown a major spanner in the works when it came to Hamilton’s future.

“Russell, unlike Valtteri Bottas, showed in the junior classes that he can win impressively easily and frequently. His performance will not have gone unnoticed by those at the top at Mercedes,” Gargantini added.

He also speculates that if Hamilton were to leave after 2021, Mercedes could enter the 2022 world championship with the spectacular lineup of Russell alongside Max Verstappen.

Gargantini said Dr Helmut Marko may be anticipating that, which is why Red Bull elected to replace the struggling Alex Albon with the highly experienced and consistent Sergio Perez.

As for the Hamilton contract reports, a Mercedes spokesperson insisted: “We do not comment on speculation and rumors.”

Luigi Perna, a highly respected writer for La Gazzetta dello Sport, commented: “The negotiations between Hamilton and Mercedes over the renewal of his contract which expired two weeks ago has become a game of chess.”