Mercedes says it wants to avoid a repeat of its prolonged contract talks with Lewis Hamilton in the wake of ratifying their one-year arrangement to cover the 2021 Formula 1 season.
Hamilton joined Mercedes in 2013 and signed a two-year extension in July 2018 to cover the 2019 and 2020 seasons.
But negotiations over Hamilton’s future were delayed through 2020 on account of the pandemic, the shortened and postponed season, as well as Hamilton’s own Covid-19 diagnosis, with discussions not formally beginning until late December.
On Monday, with just under five weeks to go until the start of testing, Mercedes confirmed that it has reached a one-year agreement with Hamilton to cover 2021.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff explained the decision to sign for only one year was partly motivated by the delay and that it was “[let’s] just get going and then find some time during 2021 to discuss the future,” but he affirmed the team hopes to avoid a prolonged affair in the future.
“It’s always tricky to find some time, whilst racing, but we have learned the lesson that there could be external factors that can delay discussions and we don’t want to end up in January again,” he said.
“So probably we are going to pick up chatting about 2022 much earlier.
“We agreed jointly that we don’t want to drag it on as much or as long as we did this time around and we are going to try and find some time together during the season.”
Confirmation of Hamilton’s deal completes Mercedes’ driver line-up, with the World Champion again pairing Valtteri Bottas, who joined in place of Nico Rosberg for 2017.
Wolff reiterated that its priority will be to discuss terms with Hamilton and Bottas but hinted that Mercedes also has to consider its long-term options.
Rivals Red Bull and Ferrari have put its faith in youth, led respectively by Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc, while Mercedes-supported George Russell is entering the last season of a three-year Williams deal.
“Valtteri and Lewis have our 100 per cent commitment and loyalty for 2021, we will support them with everything we have,” said Wolff.
“We will then look beyond this year and say what is the line-up that we imagine in 2022 and onwards.
“Our first discussions are going to be with Valtteri and Lewis in respecting our values of loyalty and integrity.
“But on the other side the young drivers are the future, and therefore we need to consider how we want to set ourselves up for the years beyond.”