Lewis Hamilton has finally laid the foundation for a record eighth Formula One World Championship by signing a one-year extension to his Mercedes-AMG contract.
The newly-knighted racer ended months of negotiations and speculation with the new deal, although there are no details about his salary or a rumoured ‘anti-Verstappen’ clause in the contract.
Instead, the Mercedes team is talking about ‘greater diversity and inclusion’ as Hamilton prepares for his ninth straight season with the black – formerly silver – arrows.
His new deal instantly confirms him as favourite for the 2021 championship, despite the potential (but unlikely) threat from his team mate Valtteri Bottas, promises of a much-improved power package at Ferrari for Charles Leclerc and new signing Carlos Sainz, and the likelihood of a Honda push for Max Verstappen in their final year.
But Hamilton, who led diversity protests on grids through 2020, is talking more about his off-track plans than anything in racing.
“Our team has achieved incredible things together and we look forward to building on our success even further, while continuously looking to improve, both on and off the track,” said Hamilton.
“I’m equally determined to continue the journey we started to make motorsport more diverse for future generations and I am grateful that Mercedes has been extremely supportive of my call to address this issue. 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.”
The new deal is not remotely surprising, as Hamilton needs Mercedes to continue his extraordinary run of success and the team is happy to continue with him until there is an obvious successor – or he bores of breaking F1 records.
After handling negotiations on Hamilton’s deal, as well as his own future with the team, Toto Wolff was predictably upbeat.
“We have always been aligned with Lewis that we would continue, but the very unusual year we had in 2020 meant it took some time to finish the process,” he said.
“Together, we have decided to extend the sporting relationship for another season and to begin a longer-term project to take the next step in our shared commitment to greater diversity within our sport.
“Lewis’s competitive record stands alongside the best the sports world has ever seen, and he is a valued ambassador for our brand and our partners. The story of Mercedes and Lewis has written itself into the history books of our sport over the past eight seasons, and we are hungry to compete and to add more chapters to it.”