Lewis Hamilton must be ‘cold-blooded’ in new Mercedes contract negotiations

Exclusive: Hamilton, the seven-time F1 world champion, is out of contract with the Silver Arrows at the end of 2023, yet Damon Hill believes the 38-year-old must not be tempted to move to another team

Kieran Jackson
Formula 1 Correspondent
Friday 07 July 2023 11:55 BST
Hamilton: Mercedes Should Focus On 2024

Damon Hill insists Lewis Hamilton has to be “cold-blooded” in contract negotiations with Mercedes with a new deal yet to be signed.

The seven-time Formula 1 world champion, who has won six of his seven titles with Mercedes, has been with the Silver Arrows since 2013 and while both Hamilton and team boss Toto Wolff maintain a fresh contract is an inevitability, the deal has still not been completed.

The 38-year-old, an eight-time winner at his home grand prix at Silverstone where the F1 paddock roll into this weekend, was heavily linked with Ferrari a few months back but quickly downplayed suggestions a switch to the Scuderia was in the works.

And 1996 F1 world champion Hill, while appreciating the “romance” of such a move, insists switching allegiance would represent a “huge risk”.

“Any driver who doesn’t know what the options are is missing an opportunity,” Hill tells The Independent, ahead of this weekend’s British Grand Prix.

“But would he really go to Ferrari? From a strategic point of view, it would be a huge risk to go to Ferrari. Everyone would love to be in red and win, see what happened with Nigel [Mansell].

“It’s a romance really but you’ve got to be cold-blooded about it. He’s not going to go to Red Bull either.”

Elaborating on why a new contract has been so long in the pipeline, Hill said: “As I understand it, the contract won’t just be a racing contract – it will be a full Mercedes ambassadorial contract.

“That requires a different board to sign off on it, can’t just be signed off by Toto. There’ll be some board meetings in Germany.”

Lewis Hamilton’s contract at Mercedes expires at the end of this season
Lewis Hamilton’s contract at Mercedes expires at the end of this season (Getty Images)

Red Bull have won all nine races so far this season and are cruising to another double title win, with Max Verstappen 81 points ahead of team-mate Sergio Perez in the world championship.

Hill, himself a British GP winner in 1994, now believes the most exciting storyline in 2023 is whether Christian Horner’s team can do the unprecedented and win every grand prix, with 22 races in total on this year’s calendar.

“Can they win every race? It’s never been done before – they’ll be sitting there thinking ‘we can’t count on it, but we’d love to do it.’

“My experience tells me that something will prevent that – Fernando [Alonso] or Lewis will win again. But if they don’t, Max could win everything frankly.

“What an achievement that would be and how tense would that make the last few races.”

1996 F1 world champion Damon Hill says it’s very possible Red Bull could win every race this season
1996 F1 world champion Damon Hill says it’s very possible Red Bull could win every race this season (Getty Images)

Red Bull, however, will need to break a Silverstone hoodoo this weekend – they have not won the British Grand Prix since 2012 with Mark Webber.

Verstappen was foiled by a mechanical issue during last year’s thrilling race, won by Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz after a lengthy stoppage following Zhou Guanyu’s upside-down crash, and should something similar with the Dutchman happen this year, Horner will turn to Perez to bring home the trophy.

The Mexican has struggled in recent months since winning in Azerbaijan at the end of April, though he did have something of a return to form with second place in last week’s race in Austria. Nevertheless, Hill says Perez should be looking over his shoulder.

“I think he’s already under pressure,” he says. “They cannot afford to have a car that good and not have two cars right up there for the championship.

Lando Norris has a deal at McLaren until the end of 2025
Lando Norris has a deal at McLaren until the end of 2025 (Getty Images)

Pressed on who could replace Perez should Red Bull, as has been customary in the past, look to ruthlessly move on from Perez when his contract expires at the end of 2024, Hill added: “Is Daniel Ricciardo fit enough to come back?

“That’s what the noises are. Maybe that plan is simmering away. I think they’d want a fresh face.

“Possibly Lando [Norris]. He’s still got a few more years left at McLaren – I was surprised when he signed such a long-term deal [until end of 2025]. It’s a long time, I’d have done three years tops.

“If you’re that confident in yourself, you need to be able to move when the time is right.”

Hill was speaking at the Damon Hill Festival of Karting at Daytona Sandown, which raised funds for Halow – a charity that supports young people with learning disabilities and autism. Hill is a co-founder of the Halow project.

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