Lewis Hamilton has been urged to back down in his contract stand off with Mercedes by Ralf Schumacher.
The seven-time world champion is currently a free agent, having seen his previous £40million-a-year Mercedes deal expire at the end of December as both parties struggled to find a middle ground in their negotiations.
Mercedes have just a month to tie down the 36-year-old and the length of a new deal appears to be the sticking point with the Silver Arrows only willing to offer the Brit a one-year deal.
Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes have still not agreed on a new deal for 2021 and beyond
Former Formula One grand prix winner Schumacher believes rather than adding some spice to pre-season, the contract dispute is actually having a negative effect.
‘It’s a shame and almost a bit embarrassing,’ Schumacher, brother of seven-time champion Michael, said via Speedweek.
‘It is February now, and the most important man in Formula One, the seven-time world champion, has still not been confirmed [as a driver].
Hamilton has won six of his world championships in the last seven years at Mercedes with the duo having dominated Formula One, but the Brit is now technically a free agent
‘I always hear that it is all about money, but I hope that is not true. Hamilton in particular, with his humanitarian streak, has to understand that you cannot demand 100 percent in these times.
Schumacher, who won six races between 2001 and 2003 while driving for Williams in the heyday of his career, has also warned Hamilton that he is expendable to the sport and that he runs the risk of losing his seat to young Mercedes starlet George Russell.
‘Lewis should never forget this risk’, Schumacher added.
Ralf Schumacher competed in F1 between 1997 and 2007, ending his career at Toyota (above)
‘Hamilton also has to be clear – Formula One is stronger than any individual. Maybe Hamilton should give himself a jolt now.’
Currently Mercedes only have Valtteri Bottas, Hamilton’s team-mate since 2017, tied down for the 2021 season but they have the option of installing Russell should contract talks with Hamilton break down.
Russell stood in for Hamilton at last season’s Sakhir Grand Prix after the latter had tested positive for Covid, with only a Mercedes pit error and a puncture denying him a debut victory for the team.
Mercedes have less than a month to get a deal done before they unveil their new car on March 2.
Mercedes do have a back-up in installing George Russell should they fail to sign Hamilton
It would be a PR disaster to at least not have Hamilton on board to help unveil the car they hope can lead them to double world championship glory for the eighth season in a row.
On their Twitter account, the team confirmed that their two drivers would be in place to launch the W12.
Although Hamilton is free to speak to other teams, Mercedes’ competitive advantage and the lack of available drives elsewhere mean the Brit is highly unlikely to drive for any team other than the Silver Arrows.