Lewis Hamilton’s ‘new Mercedes contract’ good news for George Russell and Valtteri Bottas

F1: How Hamilton compares to Schumacher

If reports are to be believed, Lewis Hamilton is close to putting pen to paper on a new contract with Mercedes. Finally, the unusually protracted saga over the Brit’s Formula One future looks to be close to an end.

Hamilton has technically been a free agent of late but he was always going to sign a new deal. Both parties have made it clear they want to continue with each other and Express Sport understands there has never been any fear of a parting of ways.

However reports have suggested the 36-year-old has had to wilt somewhat in discussions with his team, with it claimed from Motorsport.com that he wanted a three-year contract but has instead accepted a ‘one-plus-one’ type deal.

That means Hamilton is tied down for the 2021 season but that he could quit the Silver Arrows before the 2022 season, if he wanted to or if Mercedes had alternative plans.

Most likely it means Hamilton will stay with the Brackley-based outfit until the end of 2022 at the least, though.

By that time, the reigning champion might be a nine-time Drivers’ Championship winner – and he’s certainly a strong favourite to eclipse Michael Schumacher with an eighth triumph this year.

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Hamilton signing a new deal is great news for all of F1 given what he brings to the sport on and off the track and there are two drivers on the grid in particular for whom the seven-time title-winner’s new deal is good news.

The first is Valtteri Bottas, his Mercedes team-mate. You might think the Finn would rather not have to directly compete with statistically the greatest driver of all time.

Without Hamilton, Bottas would surely be the favourite to win the 2021 title, and he might have had at least couple of championships already were Hamilton not around.

That the former Williams driver has not posed a greater challenge to Hamilton is a product mainly of misfortune given he has rivalled the Brit for pace in multiple qualifying sessions and races.

But he has been consistent enough, finishing second only to Hamilton in the drivers’ standings in both of the last two seasons, and Mercedes want to keep him for a reason.

And the structuring of Hamilton’s new contract means that while Bottas knows he must produce consistently strong showings throughout this year’s 23-race campaign, he does not have to fear the threat of George Russell as much as he might have.

Had Hamilton signed an extension which guaranteed his Mercedes seat for multiple years, as he has done previously, Bottas would be under immense pressure from the young Brit.

Russell is out of contract in 2021 when his three-year Williams loan will have ended and the Mercedes junior driver will be eager to get a chance in the Silver Arrows garage.

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But there is now a chance that Hamilton could call it a day at the end of 2021. After all, by then he is likely to be the outright most successful driver of all time on eight Drivers’ Championships.

The prospects of him retiring then are slim given how much he currently still clearly loves the sport, but that it is a possibility will still provide a small crumb of comfort for Bottas.

And the other man who benefits most from Hamilton’s one-plus-one contract is Russell, who will be dreaming of a step-up in 12 months’ time.

Williams’ Russell has shown that he is almost ready for a top drive on the F1 grid, and Mercedes are surely the team to supply it.

They got a glimpse of his talents at the Sakhir Grand Prix when Hamilton was absent with Covid and everyone was impressed by the 22-year-old, some even suggesting he should immediately displace Bottas.

As it stands there is a chance Russell could replace Bottas for 2022 but Hamilton’s seat is also not certain, and so that means there may well be two spots up for grabs this time next year. Russell would surely fill one of them if that were the case.

The chances of both Hamilton and Bottas departing seem slim given they have helped Mercedes continue their monopoly of F1 with the team’s fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh straight Constructors’ Championships since Nico Rosberg retired in 2016.

Yet neither are guaranteed to be at Mercedes in 2022 and that means there is a slightly increased chance that Russell will be promoted, given he too does not know where he will race in 2022 as it stands.

It’ll be up to Bottas to again prove this season he’s still worthy of driving for F1’s leading team while Russell must maintain his progression at Williams and continue to cut out errors and hone his racecraft with increased experience.

More of the same from Hamilton in 2020 would surely see Mercedes keen to continue their uber-successful partnership. But the decision over his future will most likely rest with him now that the terms are thrashed out, and it will be intriguing to see whose alongside him if he does continue into 2022.

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