Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says the team will begin discussions over Lewis Hamilton’s future “much earlier” during the 2021 Formula 1 season in a bid to avoid another repeat of prolonged talks.

On Monday it was announced that Hamilton had signed a one-year extension to remain with Mercedes for the upcoming 2021 campaign but negotiations ended up being a long-running saga following a number of delays.

The COVID-19 pandemic initially put a hold on talks amid a clustered 17-round calendar, before focus quickly shifted to securing both world championships. Both parties then hoped to sit down and thrash out an agreement at the end of the year but further delays were hit when first Hamilton, and then Wolff, contracted the virus.

In the end, talks did not properly start until the week leading up until Christmas. After months of intense speculation, Hamilton finally put pen to paper last week, though the deal only covers the current season, meaning Mercedes will once again need to sit down and discuss Hamilton’s future.

“It’s always tricky to find some times whilst racing, but we have learned the lesson that there could be external factors that can delay discussions and we don’t want to end up in January again,” Wolff said.

“So probably we are going to pick up chatting about 2022 much earlier.

“We agreed jointly that we didn’t want to drag it on us as much or as long as we did this time around and we’re trying to find some facts together during the season.”

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Mercedes does not have any drivers under contract for 2022 but Wolff insists that Hamilton and teammate Valtteri Bottas will be given priority to discuss terms, despite indicating that the German manufacturer needs to plan for the future, with Mercedes-backed George Russell and Red Bull's Max Verstappen mooted as possible long-term options. 

“Valtteri and Lewis have our 100 per cent commitment and loyalty for 2021, we will support them with everything we have,” Wolff explained.

“We will then look beyond this year and say what is the line-up that we imagine in 2022 and onwards.

“Our first discussions are going to be with Valtteri and Lewis in respecting our values of loyalty and integrity.

“But on the other side the young drivers are the future, and therefore we need to consider how we want to set ourselves up for the years beyond.”

 

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