Lewis Hamilton has ended his long-running contract saga by signing a one-year deal with Mercedes for the 2021 season, the Formula One team announced on Monday.
The British driver will be competing for an unprecedented eighth world title when the new season gets under way in Bahrain next month.
The 36-year-old equalled Michael Schumacher’s championship haul with his seventh title in 2020 and already has more race wins, pole positions and podiums than any other driver in the sport’s history.
Hamilton said the team had “achieved incredible things together”, while team principal Toto Wolff said the partnership had “written itself into the history books”.
Hamilton had been out of contract since his previous deal expired on the final day of December.
But after several weeks of negotiations with Mercedes, his future has finally been settled, albeit with both parties agreeing to only one extra year.
Despite the delay, both driver and team always insisted it was a matter of when, not if, a new contract would be agreed.
Hamilton said he was “excited” to be heading into a ninth season with the Silver Arrows.
“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,” he said.
“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,” he said.
“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.”
The Mercedes driver has become an outspoken supporter of equality, diversity and the environment, making several forthright statements on human rights and racism.
Wolff said the team had always been “aligned with Lewis that we would continue” but the unusual circumstances in 2020 meant it had taken longer to finish the process.
– Diversity push –
The Austrian, who also backed Hamilton’s drive for greater diversity in the sport, said the Briton’s competitive record stood alongside the “best the sports world has ever seen”.
“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,” he said.
Hamilton eased to last year’s title, wrapping up the record-equalling triumph with three rounds remaining at November’s Turkish Grand Prix.
But the Briton was forced to miss the penultimate round in Bahrain after he contracted coronavirus.
Hamilton has won six of his seven titles with Mercedes since joining in 2013. He won his first crown in 2008 when he was at McLaren.
Four of them have come in the past four seasons as Hamilton bounced back with aplomb from the disappointment of losing the 2016 title to then team-mate Nico Rosberg.