Lewis Hamilton's contract saga is finally over with the Brit signing a one-year contract, a departure from the multi-year agreements he previously signed with Mercedes.
The Brit's most recent agreement was a long and drawn out process even though both sides stated a deal would be struck in no time. Why?
We looked into our archives to dig up all the articles that featured the words Hamilton and contract. The first thing that came up were rumours linking the Brit with a move to Ferrari.
"Every driver dreams of Ferrari," Toto Wolff stated back in 2019, no doubt fearing that his star driver was drawn in by the allure of the Scuderia.
Although these rumours popped up at the end of 2019, they led to nothing as Hamilton later stated that he was already driving for his dream team. When Carlos Sainz was chosen to replace Sebastian Vettel before the start of the 2020 campaign, it became clear that a move to Ferrari just wasn't in the cards.
The first Mercedes rumours
Reports stating Hamilton would stick around with Mercedes popped up ahead of the 2020 season, but as you already know, they led to nothing concrete.
Italian media suggested the Brit was looking for a four-year contract worth $60 million a season, maybe because Max Verstappen had just signed a new deal with Red Bull, which no doubt strengthened his negotiating position.
Wolff made it clear he was in no hurry to finalise a deal, especially since his future had to be sorted as well. While Lewis stated in February 2020 that he would love to stay at Mercedes, preseason testing passed and the first scheduled race of the season in Australia was set to begin before things came to a grinding halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic. No deal was reached.
''We've already said to each other what our ambitions are and what we want from the new deal, but otherwise we're in no hurry," Hamilton told Sky Sports in April 2020. "We know each other well, we know what we want and at some point we will sit down together."
Delayed Formula 1 season begins
The Formula 1 season finally got underway in July, with Wolff expressing confidence a deal would be reached. However when reports emerged that Hamilton was looking for a pay increase from Mercedes, the world champion lashed out.
“The media keep writing about (my) contract and making demands, but I haven’t even spoken with Toto about it yet,” he wrote via his Instagram page in July 2020. “No demands. The conversation hasn’t even begun. So please stop making shit up.”
The statement was backed by Wolff, and with the Formula 1 season condensed due to the coronavirus pandemic, negotiations were put to the side.
"Honestly it doesn't feel like the right time," Hamilton told RacingNews365 back in August. "When you think about so many people in the world who have lost their jobs, people are unemployed, to then sit and negotiate a big contract, it just doesn't seem like the most important thing that I need to apply time to right this second."
In the meantime Valtteri Bottas signed a one-year deal with Mercedes without garnering much attention. By mid-November, both Mercedes and Hamilton admitted that negotiations had yet to begin.
George Russell enters the scene
While we'll never know how much it impacted negotiations within the Mercedes team, George Russell's cameo appearance in Bahrain in place of Hamilton, who was out with coronavirus, raised eyebrows.
The youngster impressed during his first appearance for the team, and reports soon followed that negotiations between Hamilton and Mercedes had hit a snag. Wolff quickly dismissed those suggestions.
Once the Formula 1 season was over Wolff put pen to paper on a new contract, but not Hamilton. In fact, the Brit was technically without a seat once the calendar turned to 2021.
From there voices began to swirl that a deal could be announced at anytime, until it finally came on February 8. Hamilton had signed a new contract, but only for one year. Whether there is an option for a second year as some suggest, that remains to be seen.
Given that Hamilton's contract runs until the end of the 2021 season, you can bet that rumours and speculation regarding his future will pick up sooner rather than later