F1: How Hamilton compares to Schumacher
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has lifted the lid on Lewis Hamilton’s contract saga after the seven-time world champion finally penned a new one-year deal with the Silver Arrows. Speculation had been rife surrounding the 36-year-old’s immediate future, with Hamilton having technically been a free agent for over a month after his previous contract expired at the end of last year.
The Stevenage-born driver’s move to extend his stay at Mercedes will provide him with the opportunity to seal an unprecedented eighth world title next season, an achievement that would confirm his status as the greatest driver to ever grace an F1 cockpit.
Given the considerable delay of Mercedes in announcing Hamilton’s extension, rumours began to fly regarding the possibility of a shock exit at the end of 2020.
It was reported that negotiations were at a standstill between the two parties as a result of Hamilton’s exorbitant wage demands, a claim that has since been rubbished by the revelation that he has not received a pay rise as part of the new deal.
Wolff has since put the whispers of discontent to bed, claiming that it took longer than expected to finalise the Mercedes star’s terms as a result of Hamilton testing positive for COVID-19 in November.
The decorated German also suggested that Hamilton could remain with the Silver Arrows into 2022 and beyond, with talks over another new deal already said to be on the horizon.
JUST IN: Lewis Hamilton signs new Mercedes contract ahead of 2021 F1 season
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“We jointly agreed on a one year deal,” Wolff told reporters on Monday. “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.
“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 financial impact of the ongoing pandemic has wreaked havoc across elite sport worldwide, with F1’s heavy reliance on funds causing problems for every team last year.
Wolff continued, explaining that the current situation made it very difficult for Mercedes to aim for anything long-term.
He also stressed that, contrary to previous reports, there were never any disagreements between himself and Hamilton during the negotiation process.
“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,” added Wolff.
“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.”
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