The man who holds the key to the 2021 driver market is reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton.
The Briton, soon to turn 35, is heading into the closing stages of his remarkable F1 career but has given strong indications of his intent to extend his spell in the sport into 2021 and beyond in his quest to eclipse Michael Schumacher’s all-time records.
Hamilton’s current contract with Mercedes runs until the end of the 2020 season and he likely has one – or possibly two – deals left to sign before he ultimately retires, placing even greater emphasis on his next call.
Speculation linking Hamilton to a potential sensational move to Ferrari escalated during the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend when Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto said knowing that Hamilton is available in 2021 “can make us only happy”. Reports then surfaced in Italian media that Hamilton had met with Ferrari chairman John Elkann on more than one occasion throughout 2019.
Hamilton asserted his authority as the class of the field by notching up his sixth world title with his latest triumph in 2019, putting him on the verge of matching Schumacher’s record haul of seven championships – a feat he could achieve as early as 2020. With Mercedes remaining the dominant force in F1 as it wrapped up a historic sixth consecutive championship double, would Hamilton really make the switch from silver to red?
A Maranello move certainly poses an attractive proposition given Ferrari’s illustrious position and history in F1. Most drivers will tell you they dream of driving in the famous scarlet overalls one day, though it would not come without risk.
HAMILTON: I DON’T THINK IT’S GOING TO BE ANY MORE CHALLENGING
Despite a resurgence in recent years, Ferrari has been unable to usurp Mercedes and continues to endure its decade-long wait for any form of championship silverware. At Mercedes, Hamilton has found a comfortable environment in which he continues to extract the best out of himself while knowing he will be provided with a car strong enough to maintain his current level of supremacy.
However, the lure of potentially delivering Ferrari its first drivers’ title since 2007, becoming a champion with three different teams and the subsequent impact on his legacy by surpassing Schumacher’s records in the process might be tempting for Hamilton. Should Hamilton shock the paddock and depart Mercedes, Esteban Ocon and George Russell would both be among the drivers in consideration to fill his vacated seat.
In all likelihood, Hamilton will remain at Mercedes. He finds himself in a win-win situation and such paddock talk will only help strengthen his bargaining power when he comes to negotiate his next contract.
Either way, the decision Hamilton makes will have a bearing on how hectic or calm the driver market chain reaction of dominoes turns out to be, with the majority of drivers waiting to see what he does before looking to resolve their respective futures.
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THE NEXT RACE 2021
|Bahrain ||26 Mar|
|14:30 - 15:30||Free practice 1|
|18:00 - 19:00||Free practice 2|
|15:00 - 16:00||Free practice 3|
|18:00 - 19:00||Qualifying|
|18:00 - 20:00||Race|
|Bahrain||57 laps||308.238 km|