Lewis Hamilton contract: F1 salary cap damaging Toto Wolff Mercedes talks says Mark Webber

Lewis Hamilton’s talks with Mercedes over a new contract with the team may be being prolonged amid talks of a Formula One drivers’ salary cap, which could be imposed as of 2023. That’s the suggestion of Mark Webber.

Seven-time world champion Hamilton has spoken out against elements of the salary cap, although he generally supports it, and said: “I’m not personally opposed to it. 

“I do think about the next up and coming young stars that are coming through and I don’t particularly see why they should be handicapped if they’re bringing something huge to the sport.

“If you look at other sports, there have been salary caps in some of those sports… I think the one difference is that those places the individuals own their image in many areas, they can try to maximise their image elsewhere.

“This sport controls pretty much the driver’s image. It is a multi-billion dollar sport and they [the drivers] should be rewarded for what they do bring to it.”

F1 teams have already agreed an overall team budget cap of £107million ($145 million) for 2021 which will reduce to £104m ($140m) in 2022 and then £100m ($135m) in 2023.

But the sport is also discussing the introduction of a separate drivers’ salary cap as they look to narrow the gap between the top teams and those lagging behind at the back of the grid.

Such a cap is still yet to be officially agreed and will not come into effect until 2023 but was supported in an F1 Commission meeting back in October, although deals already agreed before those rules are thought to be exempt. 

Yet former Red Bull racer Webber – winner of eight F1 races – believes the future salary restrictions may be a topic of discussion between Hamilton, Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff and the rest of the Silver Arrows hierarchy as they look to thrash out a new deal for the 35-year-old world champion.

Speaking on the At The Controls podcast, the Australian declared of the Brit’s ongoing contract discussions: “I don’t know how it’s all being played out at the moment.

“Obviously him and Toto enjoy a very good relationship I believe. I think that they would have liked it to be nipped in the bud by now.

“Obviously the timing around certain things, particularly his virus [COVID-19] right at the end there [at the Sakhir Grand Prix] and this budget cap which is coming in for drivers in the future.

“Whether that’s going to clip him at the back part of his contract, depending how long the terms of the contract are.

“That may potentially challenge the back end of his contract in terms of how the numbers would look.

“I’m sure that’s all on the table and he wants to extinguish every single opportunity he can financially out of the situation because he believes he has a value and he does.

“He brings a lot to the sport and to Mercedes, he is box office. He wants that to be recognised.”

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It has been suggested Hamilton could agree a three-year extension to keep him in F1 until the end of the 2023 season that could be worth up to £40m a year.

Wolff recently signed a new three-year deal of his own to stay on as Mercedes team principal and chief executive.

The Brit said recently: “We haven’t started the conversation but we plan to do that over the coming days.

“On the super, super plus side, I’m really proud and grateful to see Toto is staying. He’s such an important leading figure within this team and the success we’ve achieved wouldn’t have been possible without him.

“He’s such a great figurehead and I think the team is just better for it, to have that longevity, and it’s great to see that commitment from Mercedes.”

He also said: “I plan to be here next year. I want to be here next year. Us as a team have more to do together, more to achieve, both in the sport but even more outside the sport, I think.”

While Wolff declared earlier in December: “That’s gonna happen. There is no reason it shouldn’t happen. We will have this conversation.

“The virus delayed us by another 10 days, two weeks and then we have to sit down maybe virtually, maybe live.”

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