Lewis Hamilton is 38, and while that doesn’t mean he’s immediately retiring from Formula 1, he’s certainly in the back half of his F1 career. Hamilton has raced in F1 since 2007 and has broken or matched records for wins, podiums, poles, and championships.
With Mercedes’ recent struggles and the domination of Red Bull and Max Verstappen, some high-profile people are wondering how long Hamilton is sticking around. In their minds, Hamilton has already won everything, and has his hands in various other ventures. If he’s not going to win, then why stay with Mercedes? Or F1 for that matter?
Two notable people who recently speculated on Hamilton’s future include former teammate Jenson Button and Damon Hill. Both are former World Champions, both are on Sky Sports’ F1 coverage, and both indicated that Hamilton won’t want to keep going if he’s not winning.
Hamilton spoke to the media before this weekend’s F1 season opener in Bahrain where he talked about the speculation and how it’s not helping the situation. Hamilton told reporters via RaceFans, “People creating rumors without facts is never helpful. You would have thought that they would both know me by now.”
Both Button and Hill pointed to the Hamilton’s contract with Mercedes being up at the end of this season as justification for their argument. They feel that Hamilton still has something left in the tank, but with his current contract up at the end of the season, they think he’s keeping his options open and is waiting to get a sense of how this year’s Mercedes will race.
Button used his own experience that when he retired, even though he was still competitive, he left because he was no longer in a car that could compete for wins. Hill talked about not how he didn’t want to be “the old guy” when he raced, looking back on how his father Graham stayed in F1 for a bit too long in the 70s. Hill feels like Hamilton can still physically compete, but couldn’t see him “driving around in circles” if he can’t be in a car that wins.
Hamilton revealed that how Mercedes does will have no effect on his decision and that he doesn’t feel like an extension is something that needs to be done right away.
“I’ve been with Mercedes since I was 13,” Hamilton said. “Having a difficult year we had last year, whether or not we have a difficult year this year, I’ll still be here. I’m a fighter and we fight as a team. I love the challenge of finding solutions.”
Hamilton continued, “There is no hold-up with our contract. I’ve always been very relaxed. I don’t feel like I have to get it done right this second.
“I’m in a very fortunate position. It’ll get done when we’re ready. I have a great relationship with Toto and with Mercedes and we fully support each other and I’m really excited for the future together.”
Lewis Hamilton does hold all the cards, but let’s be honest, the three best teams in Formula 1 are Red Bull, Ferrari, and Mercedes. We don’t know what order they’ll be in at the end of 2023, but it’s those three.
Hamilton is already on one of those teams, so his other two options are Red Bull and Ferrari. Red Bull already has Verstappen, and isn’t going to pursue Hamilton for multiple reasons, nor would Hamilton want to go to Red Bull for similar reasons. That leaves Ferrari, who might welcome Hamilton, but they have their own young talent in Charles Leclerc.
Not to mention, if Hamilton leaves, he’s pretty much starting from scratch with a new car and a new team who have had five team principals over the last decade. Is that honestly a better situation for Hamilton than just staying at Mercedes with a car he knows, a team he knows, and a team principal with who he has a great relationship with who isn’t leaving anytime soon?
Saying that Lewis Hamilton may head elsewhere or retire is an effective way to create headlines, but when it comes down to it, it doesn’t make that much sense. It’s more likely Hamilton retires instead of going to another team, but even that is unlikely. Everyone agrees Hamilton is still performing at a high level, and he’s nearly four years younger than Fernando Alonso. He might be heading toward retirement, but he’s probably not there right now.