Lewis Hamilton says he doesn’t feel comfortable negotiating a new contract with Mercedes in the current global climate but anticipates that a deal will be done quickly.
Valtteri Bottas was confirmed as staying with Mercedes for a further season on Thursday morning, securing one half of the team’s line-up for 2021. Hamilton has been with Mercedes since 2013 and has reiterated that he wants to stay, but with the impact of COVID-19 being felt in many industries, he says he doesn’t feel comfortable talking about his own extension.
“Honestly, it doesn’t feel like the right time to sit (and negotiate),” Hamilton said. “When you think about so many people in the world who have lost their jobs, people are unemployed… To then sit and negotiate a big contract, it just doesn’t seem like the most important thing that I need to apply time to right this second.
“The fact is that I do want to continue with this team and it’s not a big effort for us to sit down and get it done. It’s just right now I don’t feel comfortable with it and I want to wait a little bit longer. I’m not talking to anybody else.
“I’m looking forward to continuing a new chapter with the team in terms of how we educate ourselves and what we are going to do to help be more diverse and inclusive moving forwards, so I’m super excited for what is possible to do with Mercedes-Benz and this team. At some stage it will get done — I’m not stressed.”
Hamilton already has six titles to his name and is favored to equal Michael Schumacher’s record of seven this season, meaning his next contract would provide him with the chance to become the most successful driver in Formula 1 history. However, he says he is most proud of the work being done to improve diversity in the sport rather than his on-track accolades.
“I think it’s the most important year of my life to date, with everything that’s going on. It’s a different fight championship-wise to other years. They are always different but we had the years when we were fighting Ferraris and Red Bulls, (and) it’s slightly different up to this point. But I do think that it is a special year, and I don’t take that lightly.
“People ask where we get our motivation from and I think there are so many things to take inspiration from and to inspire us. To be fighting for a championship at a time like this is exciting and empowering with the thought that there might be change to follow.”
On a day when Charles Leclerc posted some frustrated tweets about being labeled a racist by some observers for his stance amid the movement calling for racial equality, Hamilton says he doesn’t believe the debate around the gesture of taking a knee is detracting from the wider message. The championship leader pointed to a number of U.S. sports as examples that are similar to F1 where participants are protesting in different ways.
“I’m not seeing it from the outside, because I’m in it, so I don’t have the same perspective as everyone else. I’d like to think that just doing something and being together in it is the most important thing.
“Of course, I look at the other sports and most sports have ‘Black Lives Matter’ shirts on and most football teams, all teams, no matter what nationality, they are all take the knee. But then you see in basketball there are some that don’t, in baseball there are some that don’t, but it doesn’t mean they are not united.
“I think ultimately it is down to personal choice and you can’t force people into doing things, but I think it is a time when we can continue to educate each other and help people to understand what it (taking a knee) actually means, because there are a lot of people that don’t understand what it means. I think that’s just something we are all learning.”