After much time debating a new contract with Mercedes, Lewis Hamilton has finally signed for the 2021 Formula 1 season.
Being the only Formula one driver who was still without a contact so close to the start of the new season, was an embarrassing moment for Hamilton, who aimed sky high with his requests for Mercedes.
Ralf Schumacher also spoke out how embarrassing the situation for Hamilton is. "It’s a shame and almost a bit embarrassing. It is now February and the most important man in Formula 1, the seven-time world champion, has still not been confirmed as a driver. I keep hearing that it would be about money, but I hope that is not true. Hamilton in particular should know that in this day and age you cannot demand 100 per cent," Schumacher said.
"Hamilton should also know that Formula 1 is bigger than any individual. Maybe Hamilton needs to shake himself up now too. There is still a risk of Mercedes putting George Russell in that car. Hamilton should never forget that.”
Hamilton did make history in 2020, where he became the sport's most successful driver ever. He broke Michael Schumacher's all-time win record while drawing level with the German's seven titles.
Hamilton said, "Our team has achieved incredible things together. We look forward to building on our success even further, while continuously looking to improve, both on and off the track."
While Hamilton will be in the Mercedes car for 2021, the contract is only for one year. The new deal also involves a commitment from Mercedes to continue to work with Hamilton on seeking "greater diversity and inclusion in motorsport”. The team will work on creating a new joint charitable foundation.
Hamilton added that; ”I'm proud to say we are taking that effort further this year by launching a foundation dedicated to diversity and inclusion in the sport. I am inspired by all that we can build together and can't wait to get back on the track in March."
Mercedes team boss, Toto Wolff, added that the duration of the contract was a consequence of the lateness of the talks, and the discussions of a contract that suited Hamilton. However, Wolff said no decision had been made on whether Hamilton would race on beyond 2021.
He said he recognised that sportspeople had "shelf lives" but added: "As long as he enjoys racing, I think he is very capable of going longer".
Seeing that, with the pandemic, there is still a lot of uncertainty to what the future holds, Wolff said the global situation could have an impact on the team's revenue.
A number of major rule changes have been set in place for F1, including a budget cap that starts this year at $145m (£114m) and new technical rules for 2022 aimed at closing up the field. Daimler as a group is having to invest in electrification, adding: "We are living a financial reality that is very different from a few years ago.”
He added: "We are totally in line – Lewis and me and the wider group in Mercedes – about the situation, so there was never a discrepancy in opinion. It was just we felt that we had a good signature on a 2021 contract and we needed to get going and then find some time in 2021, earlier than this time, to discuss the future. And it's not to discuss only 2022 but also beyond, and that was not something we wanted to carve out via video conferencing between Christmas and the end of January.”
Wolff emphasised that with their decision to set up a foundation on inclusivity and diversity with Hamilton, it ”shows our long-term commitment to each other".
Wolff also added; ”There was never a moment when we thought he wouldn't sign and there was never a moment when he doubted.”