This will be the last season that Mercedes sticks with Lewis Hamilton, according to Formula 1 analyst Tom Coronel.
Following weeks of negotiations, Hamilton finally signed a one-year contract extension with the Silver Arrows. With the British driver chasing an elusive eighth Formula 1 world championship, many have speculated that this will be Hamilton’s last year in the sport.
2021 will mark the 15th season for Hamilton in Formula 1 and the 36-year old has spoken in the past about having varied interests. It has led many to assume that he will not prolong his career as a driver.
After finishing a remarkable 124 points ahead of Valtteri Bottas in 2020, Hamilton will undoubtedly start this campaign as a heavy favourite to make history and eclipse Michael Schumacher’s record of seven titles set in 2004.
Ziggo Sport F1 analyst Coronel feels that Hamilton will call it a day once he breaks this record.
Coronel further added that he sees either Max Verstappen or George Russell in a Mercedes car once Hamilton leaves.
“I’m sure he’s thinking about that. First of all: Lewis is a real racer. But this will be his toughest season ever, with 23 Grands Prix,” Coronel said.
“Every driver has had a long season at the end. The question is: do you want to live or be lived? Boys like Lewis are being lived.
“I’m 48 and if I can race somewhere, I’ll throw everything out for it. Wedding, birthday, it doesn’t matter.
“But I can imagine that Hamilton is fed up with an eighth world title after the busiest year ever. With eight titles you are no longer Lewis Hamilton, but God.
“Then you are done. I don’t know why you would go any further if you broke all records.
“Contract negotiations with Mercedes have been difficult this year. You can see that both parties did not go in full.
“It’s very simple: Mercedes no longer needs Hamilton. There is no future for him there, except transferring a lot of money to his bank account.
“Guys like Russell and Max, you can live on that for the next 10 years.”
Since his debut in 2015, Verstappen has managed to win 10 Grand Prix races and has been tipped by many to replace Hamilton.
Verstappen did not want to get dragged into the speculation, saying it was ultimately up to Hamilton.
“At the end of the day, I don’t know what Lewis is going to do,” Verstappen said.
“I just focus on myself. I’m very focused on this year and trying to make it a success.
“It’s so early in the season, with only a shakedown [of the RB16B at Silverstone], that those kinds of things I’m not really thinking about at this stage.”
Red Bull boss Christian Horner, too, has spoken about how he believes Mercedes will target Verstappen once Hamilton leaves.
“I’m sure that should Lewis decide to stop, then Max would naturally be the driver at the top of the list, but they also have George Russell,” Horner said.
“They’ve also got other drivers obviously available to them. It’s all down to relationships and us producing a competitive car.
“There’s no guarantees for 2022 [when sweeping new regulations are introduced]. It’s a complete clean sheet of paper.
“So if there’s going to be a significant mix up of the order, one would assume it’s going to be with that big regulation change.”