F1: Mercedes unveil car for 2021 season
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Lewis Hamilton and Toto Wolff have agreed to sit down earlier in the 2021 season to discuss the Briton’s contract with Mercedes, the team principal has confirmed.
Hamilton only penned a new one-year deal to commit himself to the Silver Arrows for the upcoming Formula One campaign, which gets underway March 28 in Bahrain, on February 8.
Discussions between the driver and the team dragged out for several months until a resolution was found, with speculation before the announced agreement suggesting Hamilton could even leave the world champions.
But the seven-time Drivers’ Championship winner agreed terms to stay with Mercedes for at least another 12 months.
That it was such a short-term extension has led to suggestions Hamilton could call it a day before 2022, especially if he breaks Michael Schumacher’s record and clinches an eighth title this year.
Yet Wolff has said that agreeing only a one-year deal means they can sit down and discuss longer-term details of 36-year-old Hamilton’s association with Mercedes throughout the upcoming season.
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And the pair are planning to talk it out much earlier this year than they did last season, when the shortened season – heavily impacted by the coronavirus pandemic – affected their discussions.
Wolff explained: “We have agreed that we want to pick up the discussions much earlier this year, to avoid a situation like we had in 2020 where we ran out of time and were in the uncomfortable position that there is no time left before the beginning of the [next] season.
“That’s also why we only did a one-year contract: in order to allow us to discuss the future in racing and outside of racing longer. And with the right amount of time.
“What we’ve decided is to discuss things much earlier this year, not at the end of the season.”
Hamilton meanwhile said: “I’m fully invested in in this season and in delivering – I still love what I do.
“I’m just generally in a fortunate position that I don’t have to commit to multiple years. So I chose to have a one-year deal.
“So then I can see how the year goes and where we’re at mid year, or towards the end of the year, who knows whether we will be in the pandemic.
“But it doesn’t mean I’m not committed, I’m still very, very committed to the sport.”
He added of suggestions winning an eighth title could prompt him to retire: “I don’t want that to be the deciding factor. I got into racing because I loved racing, and I think that’s always got to be at the core of what I do.
“If all you’re going for is titles, I feel like I could potentially lose my way. Of course it’s the ultimate dream, but I don’t necessarily think that will be the one deciding factor for if I stay or keep going.
“I’m fully invested in this season and delivering, I still love what I do. I’m in that fortunate position I don’t have to commit to multiple years.
Hamilton’s Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas insists he is confident he can bridge the 124-point gap that separated the pair in the final Drivers’ Championship standings last year.
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“For this year, although, yeah, Lewis has won the titles as being team-mates all the years now that I’ve been with the team, but still going to this new year, starting from fresh and with a new page – absolutely, I believe that I can fight for the title,” the Finn said.
“And that’s, of course, the ultimate goal for this season and, yeah, that’s my target. But it’s a long way until until the end. You need to take it really step by step.
“I’m demanding more for myself than ever, obviously, not overdoing things. But the ultimate goal for me this season, when I get to the last race of Abu Dhabi, is that I can look back and say that I did 100 per cent.
“[That I can say] I did every single bit, that I could win the title, that’s the ultimate goal for this year. And that is going to be same for all the people around me, whoever I’m working with.
“I’ll demand as much as I feel like I need to, to get the support and get the information that I need. And maybe that way, you know, can be a bit more more selfish.
“But one year in lifetime giving everything that you have is actually quite short time. And yeah, that’s I think that’s the kind of mindset that I have.”
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