The fact Sir Lewis Hamilton and the Mercedes F1 Team only agreed a one-year contract extension earlier this week raised questions about the seven-time World Champion’s future.
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff was quick to explain the rationale behind them opting for a single-year deal, unlike all of Hamilton’s previous contracts with the Silver Arrows.
The Austrian stressed that they “jointly” agreed on the contract length and said they went down this route because it’s in both of their interests to see how the regulation changes play out before making an extended commitment.
Since then, Wolff has said he believes Hamilton could continue to race in Formula One after 2021 so long as he remains motivated to do so, though he suggested he is wary that all drivers have a shelf life.
“It’s the third contract that we were discussing so it’s not that we needed to start from scratch,” Wolff said.
“But it’s an important contract because of the season and long term how we are going to position ourselves from 2022 onwards, and how is his thinking.
“We respect that a sports person has a shelf life and that you need to optimise the outcome whilst being active.”
Asked if he believes the Brit could continue to race with Mercedes after next season, Wolff said, “I think this is very much Lewis’ decision,” adding: “As long as he enjoys racing, I think he is very capable of going longer.
“He develops as a driver, he looks after himself in terms of physical training and mental preparation, so I don’t think that, in terms of ability, that ends in 2021.
“But in the end, it is his decision.”
Should Hamilton decide to leave Mercedes at the end of next year or retire from Formula One altogether, George Russell would be the most likely candidate to replace him at the Silver Arrows.
In such circumstances, Mercedes might even decide to run an all-new driver line-up in 2022, consisting of Russell and Max Verstappen, assuming the Dutch ace is able to leave Red Bull at that juncture.