Lewis Hamilton has lots to discuss about his F1 contract as Toto Wolff says the Brit was annoyed by 2016 loss but adds that he has moved on.
As he rapidly approaches a seventh world championship likely to be clinched at the upcoming Turkish GP, the future of Hamilton – rather bizarrely – remains a talking point of the 2020 F1 season, with no contract yet signed up.
The Brit fanned the flames of speculation after the Emilia Romagna GP, at which point he suggested that his future may not be such a foregone conclusion as initially thought, but the Brit clarified his prior statements this weekend.
The Mercedes driver restated his desire to continue with F1 and with his team, laying to rest the widespread conjecture that his ambition might take him elsewhere. “I think it’s something we’ll do, if not after the job is done, then particularly at the end of the year,” said Hamilton to media including F1 site, Motorsport Network, Racefans.net and more.
“But nothing is set in stone. I think it’s just about talking about it. And at the moment, I don’t feel like I’m finished. I think there’s always areas to improve. I love racing. I love the challenge. And I don’t think that’s going to change anytime soon.”
Addressing why exactly the details of his contract have taken so much time to sort (particularly after rival F1 teams had their 2021 line-ups settled prior to the season start), Hamilton explained that his priorities demand a more complex deal then in years past.
The 35-year-old suggested that he has an interest in the other projects of the brand for which he drives – especially with regards to the electrification of their models and the diversification of the brand. Hamilton has been environmentally conscious for some time, and is an advocate for change both within F1, and the world on a greater scale.
As the grid’s only black driver, and in fact the only driver of his race ever to have competed in a traditionally-white sport, Hamilton has also championed greater diversity in the sport. “I believe I have the best contract that there is, in terms of how it’s structured and in terms of time management,” he said. “With the team that’s put around me, it’s been great.
“But I’m always looking to see how we can improve. How can I be more efficient and do more for the partners? How can I position myself to do more for the team? Naturally, I think it’s easy just to go and sign that deal and continue not having to think of what’s afterwards. And I’m very conscious of the idea that I do want to continue with Mercedes, I would love to help them on this quest in pushing for change.
“They are taking their cars green, and electrifying more, and I want to help them on that road. I would like to help them in terms of pushing for diversity, because that’s also within the organization, as with every organization out there. There is not enough of it. So there’s a lot to discuss, and a lot to go through,” summed up Hamilton.
Much has been said about the future of Hamilton being linked to Wolff but the Austrian is clear that he will stick with Mercedes in a slightly different role, where he plays a supporting role to help his successor to adjust and take the F1 team forward.
He raised some eyebrows when he stated that, “I will be the team principal of Mercedes in 2021 to a 100 percent”, when speaking to Sky Germany in Turkey, but it will still be a role where he is facilitating his successor, with less presence in F1 weekends.
In the press conference, he once again spoke about having a shelf life and moving away from it, especially on the travel part. “I take enjoyment in what I do and I certainly don’t want to step away from the Mercedes team,” said Wolff. “I’m co-owner with Mercedes and this is something I am very proud of but it has become quite a large company.
“Our engineering arm, Applied Science, is growing strongly and I believe that I should hand over the baton as team principal to somebody that will start his journey with the same motivation and energy that I had when I started. That is a natural progression that we have done on technical level over the many years and I would be very proud seeing somebody performing better than I do and I will be watching that from a different, more senior role,” summed up Wolff.
Outside his future, Wolff elaborated on Hamilton, as to how much he has evolved over the years, especially after the loss to Nico Rosberg in 2016. “I think what I realised over the last years is his permanent self-analysis, how to get better, he has become really good at identifying points of weakness and then tackling them, and he has progressed over the years as a racing driver in the car and as a personality outside the car,” he said.
“And that is something that you see very rarely with people, that they are critical enough, while not beating themselves up, in order to progress. Many others in Formula 1 and outside F1, you’re not really good at identifying your own shortcomings and therefore you stagnate in your development and it’s a thinking pattern that with him simply doesn’t exist.
“He is constantly seeking perfection. I don’t think 2016 loss played any role [on him]. I think that annoyed him back at the time and I think he moved. I don’t think there was a particular thing to learn in that year. Nico was strong. Lewis had some DNFs leading races and in the end it is what it is,” summed up Wolff.
Here’s Lewis Hamilton playing about his future along with Toto Wolff