The extension, which will keep Hamilton at Mercedes for the next two years until the end of the 2023 season, was announced on Saturday morning at the Austrian Grand Prix. 

It will take his stint at the British-based German team with which he has won six of his seven world titles to at least 11 seasons, having joined from McLaren at the end of 2012. 

But what convinced Hamilton to keep going?

Mercedes’ shared values 

The continuation of F1’s most successful combination ultimately came as no surprise. After all, Hamilton had already indicated that he planned to remain in the sport for at least one year and Mercedes remains the perfect fit. 

Hamilton has only ever driven for Mercedes-powered cars in F1 and that partnership was further strengthened last year with a shared commitment to try and improve diversity in motorsport.

Mercedes has backed Hamilton’s stance on racism and inequality and made its support clear by painting its cars black for the past two seasons in an act of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.   

These are issues that matter deeply to Hamilton, and he appreciates that Mercedes is aligned with him. 

“It’s exciting, naturally, to be continuing,” Hamilton said.

“I think last year and what you are seeing now, we’re entering into an interesting phase for me personally because it’s not just the racing. 

“It’s what’s coming up, the work we are doing as a sport in terms of trying to make it a more diverse and inclusive space. I’ve been a part of the start of that and look forward to continuing with that. 

“I love working with this team, I feel constantly challenged and we’re being challenged more than ever this year, which I think is great. And I love racing. 

“This is what I was born to do. I still feel fit, I still feel as committed as ever, so I don’t see a reason to stop.”

The thrill of his biggest challenge yet

Hamilton is aiming to win a record-breaking eighth world championship this year but he is currently 18 points behind Red Bull’s Max Verstappen after eight races of what is scheduled to be a 23-round campaign. 

Facing stronger competition for the world championship has only spurred Hamilton on and reinvigorated his passion for racing. 

And this all comes on the eve of exciting change in what will arguably mark F1’s biggest regulation change in history, with an all-new car and set of sporting and technical rules coming into force in 2022.

“At the start of this season when the cars were so close in performance, pretty much equal, it was one of the most exciting times that I’ve had for some time, to have this battle with Red Bull,” Hamilton said.

“Honestly, I was really hoping that it would continue on like that through the rest of the year. But as you’ve seen, they’ve taken a huge leap forwards. 

“We’re always in different places in our lives and it’s important that we take time to evaluate. It’s important that we do what’s right for us in terms of health and mental wellbeing and at the end of last year, it was a long journey. And it’s always a good time to reflect and see what’s next. 

“I found myself just waking up and thinking about racing, so I wanted to continue to race. 

“And now we’re having this tight battle, it’s brought me closer to the team, it’s brought me closer to the engineers. It’s making me dip deeper and I love that. I guess it has been reinvigorating, the love that I have for this sport and what I do.

“Just knowing the conversations and Zooms we are having in the background with the FIA and F1, seeing Stefano [Domenicali] come in and knowing what a great guy he is, knowing what this sport can be.

“I want to be a part of helping this sport evolve and be as great as it can be.”

‘Smooth’ negotiations key to speedy deal

In contrast to last year’s lengthy negotiations that spilled over into 2021, this time around things were wrapped up swiftly. 

Hamilton opened talks with Mercedes boss Toto Wolff in May and within two months a new deal was struck, with Hamilton putting pen to paper in Austria on Friday night. The agreement was then made official the following morning. 

Wolff described the contract discussions as straightforward and said the terms were largely a “copy-paste” from his previous deal, while Hamilton spoke of a “smoother” process. 

“It was a lot smoother than it was in December and January,” he explained. “I had a lot on over Christmas and new year, it was a stressful period. And naturally, we were doing it over Zoom, which is not always the most productive when you’re having these conversations.

“This one was much, much easier. Toto and I have spent a lot more time together, face to face. I had chosen the past contract, the one in January, it was meant to be a two-year deal and I asked for it to be a one-year because I knew that obviously we’d been through a pandemic and there was so much change in the world, and also I was unsure whether I would continue or not.

“I started off the year, had the best and most enjoyable start to the year, and enjoyed the rollercoaster ride that we’re having. I think that it was really the best thing to get this done before summer break, which is obviously next month, and so now we can just focus on being the best team we can be.”

The timing of the deal is crucial given that it takes any pressure or unnecessary distraction away from Mercedes and Hamilton, enabling full focus on the raging title battle against Red Bull.  

“It is good that we have sorted for the next two years,” Wolff added. “There’s so much work and so many challenges that we need to solve that in a way, we ticked one box and that’s good. 

"It gives us more capacity to look at other things.”

Will it be Hamilton’s last F1 contract?

Hamilton’s decision to only commit to a one-year extension earlier this year understandably prompted some question marks over whether he could call time on his career at the end of 2021. 

But according to Wolff, the topic of retirement was only ever ‘flirted with' during Hamilton’s discussions and was never really something he seriously considered. 

“He understands pretty well how he feels about racing and that passion burns strongly,” Wolff said. 

“In a way also the tough championship has ignited even more fun with us to fight. Next year looks really exciting.

“And we talked about retirement and certainly it’s important to always have that flirt with retirement but equally be in control of your own destiny.

“And I think at that stage there is so much passion for the sport that I can see him going for a while.”

Hamilton will be 38 years old by the time his new contract expires and despite Wolff’s indication that it won’t be his last deal in F1, the Briton reiterated that he currently has no desire to continue racing beyond 40.

Indeed, Hamilton has a number of interests outside of F1 ranging from music, fashion and his growing activism that he wants to pursue further. 

But for the time being, his focus remains fixed on the track, even if plans for his post-F1 future are developing in the background. 

“It kind of gets to ‘jeez, what’s next?” Hamilton said. “I am constantly being challenged, it’s never easy. 

“We are constantly having to push ourselves and elevate, and it’s a constant struggle within this sport trying to get the car right each weekend, trying to understand the tyres, trying to understand the aero config, each track is different, each compound is different at different tracks and different surfaces. 

“You’ve got young cats coming through doing great. You’ve got Red Bull who have just got an amazing package this year. You’ve got McLaren, who have really progressed so well and I am so happy for them. It’s exciting - it’s the closest pack probably we’ve ever had. 

“I am excited to see what the next year holds in terms of I hope that it remains the same in terms of closeness.

“When I am 38, there’s going to be a point in which I am going to want to move on to do different things… I never do anything half-arsed so I am not going to do it at 80%, 70% and just trundle along like there are people that can do that. I am only here to win. 

“If there’s ever a point that I feel that I don’t want to commit the time or the effort, the mental time and energy that it takes, then that will be the time for me to stop. 

“I don’t plan to be here until I am 40. I hope I have something else exciting to do beyond but regardless, no matter what time you stop, I am going to miss this sport and the competing side of it for sure.”