The decision by Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes to sign only a single-year contract last month was surprising, but there are a lot more unknowns to be discovered in the 2021 Formula 1 season according to the seven-time champion.
Citing a bout with COVID-19 that impacted both Hamilton and Mercedes’ team principal Toto Wolff late last year, the decision was partially credited to the lateness with which they broached the contract.
But there was more that factored into the decision. Not least was the fact that Hamilton has already achieved most of what he set out to accomplish in his career.
Another factor may be the uncertainty of what will happen in Formula 1 in 2021 and beyond as Hamilton and the rest of the sport faces a series of unknowns.
“Firstly, I’m kind of in a fortunate position where I’ve achieved most of the stuff that I’ve wanted to achieve up to this point,” Hamilton said at Autosport.com. “So there’s no real need necessity to plan too far ahead in the future.
“I think we live in quite an unusual period of time in life, and I just wanted one year. Then we can talk about if we do more, and keep adding it if we have to.”
With his 92nd Formula 1 victory last year in the Portuguese Grand Prix, Hamilton ascended to the top of the all-time wins list. He went on to win the next three races and closed the season with 95. The 100-win mark is well within reach for a driver who has scored 10 or more victories in six of the last seven seasons and nine the year he did not score double digits.
Hamilton wrapped up his seventh Formula 1 title in Round 14 of 17 in the Turkish Grand Prix to tie Michael Schumacher for the most World Championships. Six of these titles came in the past seven seasons, including the last four consecutive. If he is able to win again in 2021, there is really no other mountain to climb.
Lewis Hamilton says the new Mercedes car will be slower than the old one 👀 pic.twitter.com/6s412L362s
— ESPN F1 (@ESPNF1) March 2, 2021
As part of his one-year contract, Hamilton and Mercedes jointly launched a charity to foster inclusion and diversity in all forms of motorsports. Hamilton expects that goal will take up increasing amounts of time.
But another factor in his decision to sign for only a single season is that Hamilton does not know what racing in Formula 1 will be like in 2021 and beyond.
“I don’t know if the fans know but we’ve had a downforce adjustment that’s been made for this year, which does mean the car won’t be as fast – at least at the get-go.” Hamilton said.
Will that provide closer, more competitive racing?
“Who knows? I don’t know really why they’ve done that except to bring the cars closer,” Hamilton continued. “And we have tires that are not as fast as previous years. It adds a new element to the mix. The tires: We don’t know how they will perform – what the limitations are.
“And looking at these other teams, you’ve got a stronger setting I think that you’ll see at Red Bull. Ferrari has a really great new, fresh setting and then you’ve got Sebastian (Vettel) taking over with his great experience and expertise and they are ramping up. They nearly won at Turkey last year.”
‘Nearly won’ was a generous statement. Vettel finished third within three-tenths of a runner-up Sergio Perez in the race that sealed Hamilton’s championship. Vettel’s teammate Charles Leclerc finished fourth.
But Hamilton won that event by more than 30 seconds over the field.