Lewis Hamilton would have his sights set on making history by becoming the first Formula 1 driver to win 8 championships. Currently, he is tied on seven victories along with the great Michael Schumacher.
His decision to stay at Mercedes may not instantly guarantee him a world championship though. Red Bull’s revamped line-up, for one, could pose a considerable threat.
Red Bull signed Sergio Perez, who was without a team after 10 years in the sport. Red Bull boss Christian Horner had called it surprising to have a driver of his ability without a contract. Red Bull decided to give the Mexican a chance and he has duly replaced Alex Albon as Max Verstappen’s teammate.
The team is hopeful that with two experienced drivers in its ranks, it could give Mercedes a bigger challenge.
Hamilton has been asked to stay wary of the threat posed by Perez and Verstappen in one team.
Former F1 driver Robert Doornbos believes it will allow Red Bull to “play a game with Mercedes” and thereby give Max Verstappen an opening against Hamilton.
“With Perez there a world will open up for them,” he said.
“I’m not saying he’ll be bloody fast right away – I don’t think qualifying is necessarily Perez’s strongest point either – but with ten years of experience with different teams, he has developed a knack for peaking on Sundays when he has to.
“That is also what Red Bull was looking for, so that they can play a game with Mercedes, instead of being the plaything of Mercedes. So you will notice the difference there.”
Earlier this week, Christian Horner had admitted that he is confident Verstappen would be pursued by Mercedes if Hamilton decided to quit the sport.
“I’m sure that should Lewis decide to stop then Max will naturally be the driver at the top of Mercedes’ list,” Horner said.
“They also have George Russell and other drivers available to them.
“The reality is that yes, of course – as there has always been – an element of performance-related clauses to Max’s contract.
“But as with all these things, it’s not about forcing a driver that doesn’t want to be there,” he said.
However, Horner was adamant that Verstappen would eventually decide to stay with Red Bull.
“It’s more about relationships than contracts and you only pull a contract out of the drawer when you have a problem, in my experience.
“The relationship with Max is very strong, he believes in the project, in what we are doing, and he sees the investment Red Bull are making.
“I’m confident we won’t need to refer to any contractual clauses. It will be down to us to deliver a competitive car.”