Lewis Hamilton will remain in Formula 1 with Mercedes for the 2021 season after putting pen to paper on a new contract with the reigning world champions. 

Hamilton’s future has been the subject of intense speculation in recent months following a number of delays to a widely expected extension but an agreement has finally been reached, over six weeks after his previous deal expired.  

After rounding off his historic seventh title-winning campaign with a third-place finish at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in December, Hamilton set the target of concluding a new contract for 2021 by Christmas. When that failed to materialise, speculation over Hamilton's future only ramped up.  

But confirmation of a new deal has put an end to the uncertainty amid the long-running saga and formally locks in Mercedes' 2021 driver line-up, with Valtteri Bottas having already signed on for the upcoming season. 

Mercedes says a "significant part" of the new agreement builds upon the joint commitment to greater diversity and inclusion in motorsport, in the form of a joint charitable foundation. 

"I am excited to be heading into my ninth season with my Mercedes teammates," Hamilton said. "Our team has achieved incredible things together and we look forward to building on our success even further, while continuously looking to improve, both on and off the track.
 
"I'm equally determined to continue the journey we started to make motorsport more diverse for future generations and I am grateful that Mercedes has been extremely supportive of my call to address this issue. I'm proud to say we are taking that effort further this year by launching a foundation dedicated to diversity and inclusion in the sport.

"I am inspired by all that we can build together and can't wait to get back on the track in March."

The 36-year-old Briton had long expressed his desire to stay with Mercedes but negotiations over a renewal had been repeatedly put on hold during a condensed 17-round season which only began in July after the coronavirus pandemic caused major disruption to the original schedule. 

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff, who recently committed to the German manufacturer for a further three years, had initially hoped to sit down with Hamilton and open discussions with his star driver after both world championship titles were secured but talks once again stalled when Hamilton contracted COVID-19 after the Bahrain Grand Prix. 

"We have always been aligned with Lewis that we would continue, but the very unusual year we had in 2020 meant it took some time to finish the process," said Wolff.  

"Together, we have decided to extend the sporting relationship for another season and to begin a longer-term project to take the next step in our shared commitment to greater diversity within our sport. Lewis's competitive record stands alongside the best the sports world has ever seen, and he is a valued ambassador for our brand and our partners.

"The story of Mercedes and Lewis has written itself into the history books of our sport over the past eight seasons, and we are hungry to compete and to add more chapters to it."

Hamilton was listed by Mercedes on the first version of the driver and team entry list for 2021 and the new contract - announced initially as a one-year deal - will see the hugely-successful Hamilton-Mercedes partnership continue into a ninth season. 

Hamilton was victorious in 11 out of the 16 races he contested in 2020 as he stormed to a seventh world title with three races to spare, equalling Michael Schumacher’s tally of world championship triumphs. 

En route to his fourth straight title, Hamilton set a new record tally of most grands prix wins, surpassing Schumacher’s previous benchmark of 91 at the Portuguese Grand Prix in October just two weeks after he had equalled it in Germany. 

In a remarkably consistent season, Hamilton finished off the podium on just two occasions and scored 124 more points than Bottas, who managed just two victories in contrast to Hamilton’s 11. 

Hamilton helped Mercedes maintain its unbeaten streak of success in the V6 hybrid as the German manufacturer claimed a record-breaking feat of seven consecutive world championship doubles. 

It marked Hamilton’s sixth title with Mercedes since joining the team back in 2013 from McLaren and puts him on the brink of becoming the most successful driver of all time, something he can achieve if he prevails to an unprecedented eighth world championship this year. 

Hamilton's signature formally completes the 2021 F1 grid, following Red Bull's decision to sign Sergio Perez and replace Alex Albon as Max Verstappen's teammate for next season.