TALK of the town in Formula 1 circles is that contract discussions between Lewis Hamilton and his Mercedes racing team have come to a standstill.
Sir Lewis is said to be wanting an eight-figure sum for his services, but the German team is wondering if he’s really worth that much, especially considering that Williams driver George Russell has proved he’s just as good (and would hop into the Merc seat for a fraction of the cost).
Now former Dutch racing ace Jan Lammers has weighed in, questioning if Mercedes could morally be holding Hamilton to ransom over his contract negotiations.
Merc boss Toto Wolff’s latest words this week on the protracted discussions with the seven-time World Champion were that a deal could be signed “soon” but that it would probably not extend to three years.
Various explanations have been suggested externally for the delay, most of which are based on the financial side.
Lammers thinks Mercedes could be taking the moral high ground in regard to constraints caused by the global health pandemic and also the new Formula 1 budget cap, which means the team is having to streamline staff and redeploy resources.
Hamilton has, however, cited the effects of the pandemic as a reason why he had not rushed into contract talks last year.
“It could be that Hamilton is overestimating his market value and underestimating the situation in the world,” Lammers said in an interview with Racing News 365.
“Meanwhile, I think Mercedes are limited in what they can offer Hamilton morally.
“How can you justify it to the staff and the management that he continues to receive his multi-million salary while people elsewhere in the company have to lay off people?
“With these kinds of things, you have to be careful not to go too far.
“What Hamilton does not seem to fully realise is that there is, of course, a great opportunity for Mercedes as well.
“The company just wants to sell cars and then the question is: ‘what do you get more from? Is that with the next world title?’
“That would be great, of course, but many people don’t care about that. Or would a statement against Hamilton’s multi-million dollar salary do more for loyalty?
“I personally think Mercedes have the chance to make a very powerful statement by stating that the loyalty lies with the Mercedes customers and employees and not with one sportsman.
“I think that has been a little under-exposed.”
Ultimately, Lammers thinks Hamilton will be the party that has to back down more than Mercedes in negotiations.
“I think the chance that Mercedes will yield to Hamilton is many times smaller than the other way around,” he said.
“You never know what forces are at play, but I don’t think Mercedes will give in.
“If there is a deal on the table, it will be because an external party has come up with a solution.”
Hamilton and Mercedes had expressed a mutual desire to continue their historic partnership.
But what should’ve been a simple dialogue has now turned into a lengthy discussion that may go south.
Former F1 team boss Eddie Jordan thinks the contract troubles may be a result of Hamilton demanding a greater stake in the company’s TV revenue.
He believes Hamilton is looking for 10 per cent of the money Formula 1 pays Mercedes for TV rights.
While many argue that Hamilton, now in the last years of his career, should take any deal Mercedes gives him and go on to create some more records before he retires, Jordan disagrees.
The F1 veteran believes that Hamilton’s presence adds value to Mercedes and F1, pointing out that companies like Ineos, now a one-third partner in the company, or Tommy Hilfiger joined last year for the perceived value Lewis adds to the team.
Opposing views suggest Hamilton is replaceable and that most drivers would jump at a chance to drive with Mercedes right now, and many feel Hamilton’s siding with the Black Lives Matter political movement did a lot of damage.
Anyway, a decision needs to be reached before the Bahrain GP on March 28.
Hamilton meanwhile, is not exactly short of a dollar.
He was 13th on Forbes’ list of ‘The World’s Highest-Paid Athletes 2020’.
Forbes reports he has endorsement deals with Bose, L’Oréal, Mercedes-Benz, Monster Energy, Police, Puma, Sony, Tommy Hilfiger, Vodafone-USD, earning $17 million in 2020 from these deals.
Hamilton also has a salary of $55 million besides other bonuses and winnings.
His net worth is estimated at $374 million by Celebrity Net Worth.
He owns more than a few cars, among them a McLaren P1, Shelby Cobra, Ferrari LaFerrari, Vision Mercedes Maybach 6, Pagani Zonda 760, Mercedes AMG GTR, Mercedes Maybach S600, Mercedes AMG G63, Mercedes SLS AMG, Ford Shelby Mustang GT500 and a Mercedes AMG Project One.
Oh, there’s an airplane too: a $29 million Bombardier Challenger 605, on which Hamilton got a $5.9 million VAT refund after a game of musical chairs with the taxman.
It was bought by his company in the British Virgin Islands, then it was leased to a second company in the Isle of Man, and then again, to a third private company before it finally came back to Hamilton.
He also has super-luxury homes in at least four locations: London, Geneva, Monaco and New York.
And a (vegan) bulldog called Roscoe.
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