F1 OPINION | Gluttony and the £50 million burp in the Hamilton-contract saga

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• Lewis Hamilton has reportedly signed a new contract with his Mercedes-AMG team.

• The deal is rumoured to be worth £50 million per annum.

• Hamilton and Mercedes were at loggerheads over the new contract's details.

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Rumours from the Planet Paddock have Lewis Hamilton demanding not just a modest £40 million per annum in his new contract, but a lofty £50 million. 

This comes with a stab at the prize money paid to teams for their ranking and points secured in the Formula 1 Constructors' standings, as well as a say in the future of Mercedes-Benz's hybrid cars. Without going through all the numbers, the 'WaBenzis' has wiped the floor with its rivals since 2014 (when the hybrid era began).

And not much is likely to change this year, especially with a reputed 25hp (19kW) added to the current mill's power.

But as they say, there's always three sides to a story, and sometimes more.

lewis hamilton
Lewis Hamilton

Mercedes-Benz

As owner and entrant, the Stuttgart wigs, like most other teams, place great value on the Constructors' title, along with the large chunk of dosh that gets dished out come season's end when points. No-one knows exactly what that equates to thanks to the Concorde Agreement, but having bagged 573 points in 2020, Mercedes pocketed around $573 million - if rumours are to be believed. 

Obviously, the Mercedes crown's star scored 347 of those points against the 223 points of team mate Valtteri Bottas, so it makes sense to retain the recently knighted driver for 2021 and beyond. 

Further, again in pure marketing speak, come December 2021, Mercedes would dearly love to brag about being instrumental in securing Sir Lewie's eighth title, a record likely to stand for many years to come. It could even go down in history as an "unbeaten record" for titles secured with good ol' 95 octane (and a bit of bio-fuel). That's assuming F1's future is green and fully-electric, of course. Hamilton secured his first title in 2008 while driving for McLaren.

Serious bragging rights, for sure.

lewis hamilton
Lewis Hamilton winning the 2020 Turkish GP

Lewis Hamilton 

Whether the deal has been signed behind closed doors - now; recently; or as far back as last year - is unknown. What we do know, as we wait for the season opener in Bahrain on 28 March, is that the supposed hurdle between the two parties has brought, and bought, immense PR value in terms of column centimetres in the print media and time on the TV channels. Whether it's click bait or genuine hurdles and obstinacy (see greed) on Hamilton's part is not clear, but it's certainly keeping F1 aficionados' eyes and ears glued to the media.

As well-documented, Williams driver George Russell stood in for Hamilton at Sakhir and performed admirably, to put it mildly. At 1.85m, (Hamilton measures 1.74m) the 22-year-old had to be shoehorned into the Merc but still managed to score two points (9th) plus one for the fastest lap - three in total. He qualified second, just 26 milliseconds behind Bottas for the race, no doubt setting off a large clanging in Hamilton's eardrums. 

READ: Hamilton contract drama 'all for show' - Bernie Ecclestone

Meanwhile, team boss Toto Wolff's radar probably glowed brighter than the Northern Lights. Bar punctures and few other potential maladies, it's a dead cert he'd have won, with ease I might add. An unfamiliar car, crew, punctures, pedals that were far from ideally positioned for his boots - you name it - Russell cut the mustard during his brief outing. His performance in his usual steed at Williams isn't comparable, given the swamp-donkey status the Williams FW43 earned itself last year, as did previous models in just under a decade.

So, on the one hand, we have a megastar who could be heading for his eighth world title, plus all the marketing and bragging rights that the marketing boffs can dream of, albeit at cost. I say cost, as Hamilton's efforts in securing the bulk of the team's 2020 points largely offset the WaBenzi outfit's entire budget for 2020, and there's no reason he shouldn't do the same again, once racing gets underway. The more races, the more chance of success and wins, and with it, the more the overall points tally and moolah in the bank. With the budget cuts kicking this year, it's a given rather than a maybe.

Lewis Hamilton,f1,formula 1,mercedes
Lewis Hamilton

Russell is a viable option

Russell at 22 is a very viable replacement for Sir Lewis, who turned 36 a few weeks ago. Lewis' efforts in facing up to inequality in the sport - and in general - are admirable, sure, but some race fans are unimpressed, though. Even among the most ardent of his patriots. His knighthood drew much attention, both positive and negative, the latter attributed mainly to his chosen domiciles of Monaco and Switzerland. (No doubt he pays considerably less for the luxury there than were he permanently parked -garaged? - on the Muddy Island and filling the Queen's purse). That's his choice, though, and in fact, most drivers reside elsewhere than their native land anyway. 

Extricating Russel from his sub-£1 million salary won't be difficult. Adapting the car to his lanky frame might prove a tad tricky, but not impossible. Russel is contracted to the Mercedes team (see Wolff) who in turn supply engines, and now gearboxes, to Williams, so calling the shots as to where he drives, and for who is entirely at their discretion. Engine supply will be reduced following Honda's pending departure, and Williams knows this. They'd be fools if they didn't, not so?

George Russell,f1,formula 1,williams
George Russell

Whether Mercedes, Toto Wolff and Sir Jim Radcliffe (Ineos) - all equal owners in the team - want to swallow hard and cough up is one story. Having two knights under your banner sounds nice too, but hedging your bets on a youngster full of promise and talents is a strong option. Without the high demands of Lady Muck, it's attractive, and at the end of the day, F1 is a business before it's a sport. Bean counters doing the numbers in high-profile sports will agree: no objections from their luxury seats in the stands.

If I were Toto, I'd tell Sir Lewis that he can have his eighth title courtesy of Mercedes F1 - one he desperately wants to feed his already large ego with - but with a small provision: Get in and drive, stay out of the boardroom politics and cheque book, here's your tuppence and get on with it.

No other team can deliver like Mercedes, bar for Red Bull, and even that's a shot in the dark.

Disclaimer: Wheels24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of contributors/columnists published on Wheels24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24 or Wheels24. 

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