Lewis Hamilton’s post-race comments after winning the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix on Sunday have cast fresh doubt on whether he will continue to race in Formula 1 beyond the end of the current season.
Hamilton has now notched up 93 career race wins since his debut in 2007, 72 of them with Mercedes, breaking the previous all-time record held by Michael Schumacher. He’s also on course to equal another of Schumacher’s records if he clinches a seventh world title at the end of the current campaign.
But despite it being very late in the season, Hamilton has not yet signed an extension to his current contract with Mercedes that would him into 2021. And now it appears there’s a possibility that it might not even happen.
- Read also: Hamilton hails ‘incredible’ Mercedes title achievement
“I don’t even know if I’m going to be here next year,” he told the media at the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari after helping Mercedes clinch a record seventh successive constructors’ title.
“I would like to be here next year, but there’s no guarantee of that for sure. There’s a lot that excites me of the outer life [beyond F1], so time will tell.”
His answer had been in response to questions about whether Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff would himself stay on as boss next year, or possibly move to a different role at Brackley.
“It’s not really a concern for me at the moment,” he had responded. “You mentioned about Toto and shelf life; there’s multiple things that stay on the top of my mind.
“Naturally I feel great. I feel still very strong. I feel I can keep going for plenty of months.
“[But] I’ve been here a long, long time. I can definitely understand wanting to pull back a little bit and give more time to family and those sorts of things.
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“We have a lot of deep conversations, Toto and I, so I’m very aware of where he is mentally,” he added. “We share a lot of – and carry a lot of – the weight together, I think.”
Hamilton has previously stated that a new contract was a ‘formality’ although it might not be the same duration as his previous three-year deals with the team.
But even he seemed surprised to realise how late it was getting to make such major decisions: “We’re in November, and I’m still, it’s crazy that we’re … Christmas isn’t that far away!”
Wolff himself felt that Hamilton was a long way from stepping away from F1 and said he was confident that the reigning world champion would be back to defend his title again in 2021.
“If he were to decide to step out of Formula 1 – which I don’t think it’s going to happen, and I hope it’s not going to happen – then I think we’re going to have a pretty frantic driver market out there!
“But I think it’s the moment it’s the emotions,” he continued. “We’re all happy but very tired also.
“It’s the same for me. I completely relate to his feeling, that you question yourself, that you think about all the other things that matter.
“We are here in our little happy place [in F1],” he said, “We try to bring some entertainment into households, but then you’re back in the more difficult reality the next day.
“When you switch on the news in the morning, and switch them off in the evening, it’s all about the struggles that we all face.
“All of that is something that affects us, and in that respect it’s normal for somebody [like Lewis] who’s empathetic to have these feelings.”
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