Lewis Hamilton has committed his future to Mercedes by signing a two-year deal.
The seven-time world champion’s contract with the Silver Arrows was due to expire at the end of the season.
Here, we look at the big questions surrounding Hamilton’s latest deal.
How has it been resolved so quickly?
It is no secret that Hamilton and his Mercedes boss Toto Wolff wanted to avoid a repeat of last year’s negotiations which were concluded only in February.
Hamilton’s new deal will allow both parties to put their full focus on fighting Red Bull’s Max Verstappen for the championship.
Wolff might have been interested in pursuing Verstappen, but the Dutchman’s contract expires in 2023 and Red Bull were confident of keeping their star man, particularly now he has a car to challenge Hamilton.
How much will Hamilton earn?
Following the outbreak of Covid-19 and the financial implications placed on Mercedes’ parent company Daimler Hamilton was forced to take a pay cut for his last 12-month deal – something that did not sit particularly well with the record-breaking Brit.
It will also have been a major factor as to why last year’s discussions dragged on until six weeks before the start of his championship defence, and why Hamilton did not utter one word about his renewal on social media.
But it is understood Hamilton’s new contract will take him back to his pre-coronavirus earnings, nudging £40million a season until the end of 2023 and making him comfortably the best-paid driver on the grid.
Was it Mercedes or bust for Hamilton?
Yes. Of the big teams, Red Bull believe Verstappen is equal to, if not better than Hamilton, and that he is the future, too, given he is 13 years Hamilton’s junior.
Hamilton and Ferrari shared something of a mutual love-in at the end of 2018, but the Italian giants have since earmarked Charles Leclerc as their man for the future, tying the Monegasque down to a long-term deal.
Could he have retired?
It was always an option, and one which carried weight after Hamilton signalled at this season’s Mercedes launch that this year could be his last on the grid.
But the world champion is re-energised by his fight with Verstappen and he has delivered a string of impressive performances this year in a generally inferior car.
Fashion and music are keen hobbies for Hamilton but nothing will replace his first love: motor racing.
Who will be his team-mate next year?
Valtteri Bottas, 31, and Brit George Russell, 23, are in a direct shoot-out for the seat.
Hamilton’s preference is for Bottas, his team-mate since Nico Rosberg retired at the end of 2016, to stay. But there is a growing feeling that Mercedes could opt for change following the greater threat posed by Red Bull.
Mercedes junior driver Russell, who almost won when he superbly stood in for a Covid-hit Hamilton at last December’s Sakhir Grand Prix, is out of contract with Williams at the end of the year. And he has made his case for a promotion – not just with his display as Hamilton’s replacement, but by consistently out-performing his modest Williams machinery.
However, his appointment threatens to unsettle Hamilton and Mercedes will have to weigh up whether it is a risk they are prepared to take.
Will this be Hamilton’s last contract?
Hamilton will be a week shy of 39 at the conclusion of his next deal and he has said he cannot imagine racing into his 40s.
But Hamilton is still driving as well as ever and if Mercedes continue to provide him with a car to fight for further glory, do not be surprised if he goes beyond 2023.
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