Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes team are confident their star driver will not do the unthinkable and quit Formula One next month.
As members of the sport’s all-conquering team cracked open the champagne on a charter flight from Bologna to Birmingham to celebrate their historic seventh consecutive constructors’ championship, Hamilton headed home to Monaco, hours after suggesting this might be his 14th and final season in the sport.
The six-time world champion, who will secure a record-equalling seventh title if he wins the Turkish Grand Prix a week on Sunday, is out of contract at the end of the season.
And speaking after his triumph at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix in Imola – one that moved the Englishman 85 points clear of team-mate Valtteri Bottas in the standings with just 104 remaining – he said: “I don’t know If I am going to be here next year. I would like to be, but there is no guarantee of that. There is a lot that excites me about Formula One’s afterlife.”
However, it is understood that Mercedes expect Hamilton, who turns 36 in January, will put pen to paper on an extension which will allow him to chase a record-breaking eighth title in 2021.
Although Mercedes insist there is no timeframe to completing Hamilton’s new deal – with both parties adamant that formal discussions have not taken place – there is a desire to finalise terms before the end of the calendar year.
The concluding race of this season’s Covid-disturbed calendar takes place in Abu Dhabi on December 13.
Toto Wolff’s future as team principal of Mercedes is also undetermined with the Austrian, 48, considering a revised role which might see him skip a number of races in 2021.
And Wolff indicated that both his and Hamilton’s post-2020 plans could be resolved in one hit.
“We go together in a way,” said Wolff. “We have a symbiosis and obviously it is important where our heart is and mindset is for next year.
“I’ve said that this is my team. I’m in a very proud corner with Mercedes and I’m not going to go anywhere.
“My role may change in the future, and it’s something that Lewis has asked. Nothing is ever secure.
“It was like Niki Lauda in the 1970s: you could wake up one morning at a track and say: ‘I’m just not having fun anymore.’ And I think that can happen to anybody.
“But we want to continue this journey. We are not finished.”