Given that Lewis Hamilton has, by his own admission, found the restrictions of coronavirus mind-numbingly boring, you wonder why he hasn’t wiled away some of the long hours negotiating and signing his new contract with Mercedes.
It is early September, he is out of contract in three months, and he has no rival suitors to consider.
All of which surely leads us to the conclusion that something is afoot. He is, it seems to me, waiting for the key pieces of a wider jigsaw to slot in place before he puts pen to paper.
Lewis Hamilton is playing the waiting game over signing a new contract with Mercedes
Rumour is the lingua franca of Formula One. There is more smoke and mirrors than a Fifties nightclub. And no subject of recent months has been asked more often, or generated more theories, than the future of Mercedes, team principal Toto Wolff and, by extension, Hamilton who roared to his 95th career pole position in Tuscany on Saturday.
Let’s look at this conjecture through the prism of Hamilton’s contract talks. As I have reported before, he started by asking for $50million (£39million) a year. That, it is believed, did not impress Mercedes’s chairman Ola Kallenius.
Jobs are being cut as Covid bites. Paying one man such a fortune was suddenly hard to excuse. Kallenius thought $25m more than adequate.
It’s believed his demands for £39m a year didn’t impress Mercedes’ chairman Ola Kallenius
The future of Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has been a major topic of discussion
Against this backdrop are keen suggestions that Kallenius and Wolff do not see eye to eye, and not only about how generously Hamilton should be rewarded.
Wolff, aware of speculation over his fraught relationship with Kallenius, made a big play of saying how they get on ‘fantastically’ and talk every day. Daily! Is that really how it should be in a relationship of trust and delegation?
Anyway, clearly it is time for a little bit of tidying up and renewal after six, going on seven, years of unbroken success.
Wolff publicly hints at the need to shake things up, admitting he is considering in which role he will continue with the team next year. He has driven the sustained success of the organisation with unremitting dexterity, and the pressure has taken its toll, he says. Only the other day here at Mugello he explained that he was ‘still in a year of reflection’.
Hamilton would rather not lose Wolff, and he is unlikely to do so if the Ineos deal goes though
Hamilton would rather not lose Wolff altogether, such is their closeness, and he is unlikely to do so if the Ineos deal goes though. The Austrian would remain as an advisor.
The first consequence of the Ineos link would be Hamilton signing his new deal at a value closer to the one originally sought, fresh funds having been freed up by the chemical giants.
Wolff, trying to explain the delay in Hamilton’s deal, said: ‘We haven’t looked at the contract for the last three years. We never took it out of the drawer. Sometimes situations and environments change and, therefore, this is a time for another part of the journey that we want to go together.’
Was that a hint of a new chapter about to begin?