Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff says Lewis Hamilton’s one-year deal was proposed by both sides to get more time to work out their long-term future.
Hamilton was out of contract at the end of 2020 and negotiations dragged on throughout 2021 until a one-year deal was announced on Monday. Part of that delay was due to Hamilton testing positive for COVID-19 late last year, but with further talks required in only a few months’ time, Wolff said the need to get something in place ahead of the new season became a priority, resulting in the shorter term of the latest deal.
“We jointly did a one-year deal,” Wolff said. “First of all there is a substantial regulation change in 2022, we also want to see how the world develops and the company and on the other side because we left it very late we wanted to discuss the contract at the end of the season between the Bahrain races, and then obviously Lewis didn’t feel well.
“In the end we started our conversations just before Christmas and it was important to get it done as soon as possible, and in that respect we thought, let’s postpone the discussion about 2022 and onwards to a later stage in 2021.”
Wolff was keen to stress that the length of the latest deal doesn’t necessarily mean Hamilton will only sign short-term contracts moving forwards, but that global unknowns meant it was hard to plot out a clear future path together at this time.
“There are uncertainties in the world that affect the way that the sport can operate that have an influence on our revenue, TV monies, on sponsorship income… Daimler and Mercedes is in a huge transformation towards electric mobility and that means investment,” he said. ” So we are living in a financial reality that is very different to what it was a few years ago.
“But having said that, we are totally in line – Lewis and me and the wider group and Mercedes – about the situation so there was never any discrepancy of opinion. It was just that we felt we’ve got to put a signature on the 2021 contract, just get going and then find some time during 2021 to discuss the future.
“And it’s not only specifically 2022 but also beyond, and that is not something we wanted to carve out via video conferencing between Christmas and the end of January.”
A few reports claimed Hamilton was holding out for a longer contract that would provide him with the ability to veto his teammate and also gain a share of broadcasting revenues, but Wolff said such claims were completely false.
“No, there was not a moment where we thought he would not sign,” he insisted. “The curveballs were meant (to refer to) the situation with him having COVID in the time when we expected to sit down face to face in Bahrain.
“And on these specific clauses that were out there in the media, I don’t know where it came from because none of it is true. I read about this and found it interesting, the perspectives, but the truth is there was not a discussion about any driver-specific clause. He has never asked for that in the last eight years, and it is a team decision.
“The other clause about the revenue split or share came out of nowhere. That rumor was baseless too, so none of that was ever part of our discussions.”