This Formula One offseason is setting the stage for what could prove to be a huge shakeup in the sport. Ferrari, a manufacturer which places a huge amount of emphasis on the brand’s image in F1, locked down the breakout star of last season, Charles Leclerc, and Red Bull will keep Max Verstappen as their headliner.
Lewis Hamilton, the winner of five of the last six Drivers’ Championships with Mercedes, is yet to sign on for the 2020 Formula One season. While it’s not uncommon for Hamilton to prolong signing a new contract until after the winter break, his next deal could be the last of his career as well as Mercedes’ last spell as an F1 team.
Hamilton gunning for legendary status in 2020
With five as a Mercedes driver and one with McLaren, Lewis Hamilton is just one Drivers’ Championship away from tying Michael Schumacher with seven titles.
As such, it is assumed that Hamilton will be coming back to Formula One and most likely with the manufacturer which has won the last six world championships, Mercedes. There have been rumors that Hamilton is eyeing the expectedly faster car of Ferrari, but it seems more likely that he’ll stay where he is for at least the next two seasons to try to land the record.
While Ferrari and Red Bull will have competitive cars and top-class drivers, even Hamilton without a team is heavily favored in the latest F1 odds at -175 to claim his record-equalling championship, with Leclerc and Verstappen back at +450 and +550, respectively. Further Hamilton-Mercedes dominance is expected, but the dynasty is coming to an end.
Hamilton is 35-years-old and has mentioned that he is in the twilight of his career, so a shorter deal seems likely. Mercedes, though, may also be on their way out of Formula One. It has been reported that Mercedes is considering withdrawing from F1 after next season, which could imply that the company is switching its focus to Formula E – a sport that Mercedes has invested in heavily.
A switch to Formula E
Hamilton is a huge draw for Formula One, and even though him winning the title in five of the last six seasons was as predictable as gravity, people turn up and tune in to see the charismatic F1 veteran. His retirement will almost certainly enable some fans to turn their attention to the much cleaner Formula E.
Of course, F1 will continue without Hamilton with the likes of Leclerc, Verstappen, and Carlos Sainz becoming the stars, but more manufacturers may jump ship. Formula E is proving to be incredibly popular, experiencing a 449 percent increase in interactions with the sport across all content as well as a 61 percent increase in video views from the fourth to the fifth season.
Companies need to win over the next generation of car buyers by showcasing themselves in prestigious competitions like Formula E, and as it’s proving to draw in the crowds, brands want to make the most of the huge platform.
Hamilton retiring, and possibly Mercedes leaving, could prove to be catalysts for Formula E to become an even more popular sport. For now, though, all eyes will be on the Englishman as he goes for the record.