Lewis Hamilton ‘could quit F1 and retire’ if Mercedes car not up to scratch

The upcoming Formula 1 campaign could end up being Lewis Hamilton's last in the sport depending on the success of Mercedes' latest design.

That's the notion put forward by 1996 world champion Damon Hill, who has multiple theories regarding the uncertainty surrounding Hamilton's contract. The Silver Arrows veteran is contracted at Brackley until the end of 2023, with team and driver yet to confirm any plans beyond that.

It's left Hill wondering whether Hamilton, 38, still has the same impetus to perform, though the former Williams and Jordan driver is confident the seven-time world champion could "carry on driving well into his 40s." Hamilton is currently tied with Michael Schumacher as the joint-record-holder in world championships won, and Hill questioned "will he retire" if the 2023 season finally produced that elusive eighth crown.

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"Whatever the reason, Hamilton is out of contract at the end of this season. And it is going to be fascinating to see his next move," Hill wrote in his latest Telegraph column. "While both he and Mercedes have been saying for months that he plans to carry on, the fact remains that with less than a week until the first race of the year [in Bahrain] on March 5, nothing has yet been announced.

"It begs the question, why? One possible explanation is that both sides are waiting to see just how competitive Mercedes are before committing to a new deal."

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It's relevant that the current contract chaos has come soon after Hamilton endured the worst season in his 16 years as an F1 driver. A sorry sixth-place finish came at the end of a campaign in which he failed to win a race for the first time in his career, while Red Bull's Max Verstappen defended his title in straightforward style.

Mercedes' W13 was plagued by engineering issues and struggled terribly with F1's new regulations, with their porpoising problem becoming a running joke in motorsport circles. There were hints of the same concerns in pre-season testing, though the team won't know the full potential of the new W14 design until the season gets underway.

"If they start 2023 miles off the pace, perhaps Lewis will be less minded to sign a new long-term deal? Or perhaps it is the team who are dragging their heels? Lewis does not come cheap," Hill continued. "He gives Mercedes a lot but he costs them a lot too. In George Russell they have a young driver who might be capable of delivering a title in the right car."

Having made the move to Mercedes from McLaren at the end of 2012, it may be that Hamilton's partnership with the manufacturer has run its course after a decade. As Damon hinted, it remains unknown as to which side of the relationship any tensions stem from, but it's certain they're no longer the powerhouse of old.

Creating a competitive car will be crucial to Hamilton's hopes of finally breaking clear as the most successful driver of all time, but the Briton has long spoken of his goals outside F1. Whether 2023 ends with a new contract, retirement or a move to a rival team, the upcoming campaign may yet be the most significant of Hamilton's career to date.


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