Wolff explains one-year deal for Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton

Toto Wolff has explained that Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton agreed only to a one-year renewal as something of a stopgap before talks about 2022 begin.

While a new contract is hardly a surprise, it has only been announced just over a month out from pre-season testing, after Wolff spoke last month of “curveballs” during negotiations.

According to the Mercedes team principal, however, the brevity of the agreement is down to practical reasons.

Hamilton missed a round at the back end of the 2020 season due to contracting COVID-19, delaying talks, before Wolff also became infected in January.

Furthermore, negotiations with the seven-time world champion were conducted against a backdrop of the impending new Formula 1 regulations and an uncertain commercial environment.

“We jointly agreed on a one-year deal,” said Wolff.

“First of all, there is a substantial regulation change in 2022. We also want to see how the world develops, and the company.

“Plus, on the other side, it’s because we kept it very late.

“We wanted to discuss the contract at the end of the season between the Bahrain races and then obviously, Lewis didn’t feel well. And in the end, we started our conversation, just before Christmas.

“So it was important to get it done as soon as possible. And in that respect, we thought, let’s postpone the discussion about 2022 and onwards to a later stage in 2021.”

The Austrian believes that, with a contract for 2021 finally sorted, there is now time to assess the landscape before talks begin on future years.

“There are uncertainties in the world that affect the way that the sport can operate, that have an influence on our revenue, TV monies, and on sponsorship income,” he explained.

“Daimler, Mercedes, is in a huge transformation towards electric mobility and that means investments. So we are living in a financial reality that is very different to what it was a few years ago.

“But having said that, we are totally in line, Lewis and me and the wider group at Mercedes about the situation. So there was never any discrepancy in opinion.

“It was just that we felt we could get a good signature on the 2021 contract because we just need to get going and then find some time during 2021, earlier than this time around, to discuss the future.

“And it’s not only specifically to 2022, but also beyond. And that is not something that we wanted to carve out via videoconferencing between Christmas and the end of January.”

Wolff also dismissed speculation that Hamilton had asked for some sort of driver veto in his contract which would have allowed him to block the likes of Max Verstappen from becoming a team-mate.

He similarly refuted suggestions that the Briton was seeking a revenue sharing provision which had delayed the completion of the deal.

“On the specific clauses that were out there in the media, I don’t know where they came from because none of that is true,” Wolff asserted.

“I actually read about this, and I found it interesting, but the truth is that there was not one second of discussion about any driver specific clause. He has never asked for that in the last eight years. And it’s a team decision.

“And the other clause about a revenue share. That came out of nowhere. That rumour was baseless, too. So, none of that was ever part of our discussions.”

With Hamilton now locked away, Mercedes will take an unchanged line-up of he and Valtteri Bottas into the 2021 campaign.

Pre-season testing takes place at Bahrain on March 12-14.

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