Lewis Hamilton contract: Max Verstappen pay gap puts pressure on Brit for 2021 title

Lewis Hamilton is embroiled in a contract impasse. Currently a free-agent, the seven-time world champion faces the prospect of missing out on the season entirely if he and Mercedes cannot hash out new terms.

It is thought that the two sides cannot agree on both wages and the length of any new agreement.

The 36-year-old reportedly wants a multi-year deal. It is also said that he wants to be paid as he believes a seven-time world champion should be.

The general expectation is that the two will eventually meet in the middle and agree to a new contract.

Nevertheless, should pen hit paper, there is great pressure on Hamilton to deliver the goods and justify his hefty demands.

Of course, it should be said that Hamilton has almost never failed to deliver in the past. He has won six of the last seven world championships, now has more race wins and pole positions than any other driver in the sport’s history, and won 11 of the 16 races he started last season.

But if he is to earn in the region of the £40million salary of his last deal, he will be paid more than double any other driver on the grid, and that brings with it a certain level of expectation and pressure.

His team-mate, Valtteri Bottas, is set to earn just £8m, one-fifth of Hamilton’s predicted earnings.

Hamilton’s closest non-Mercedes challenger, Max Verstappen with Red Bull, is third behind Fernando Alonso. Yet, his £14m salary is dwarfed by the Brit’s.

And the disparity between Hamilton and his competitor’s wages is only intensified when there are those who do not believe he is the best driver in the field.

Take Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner, who this week stated his belief that Verstappen, not Hamilton, is F1’s premier racer.

“I think he is the best, and George Russell’s performance at Mercedes confirmed that for me,” Horner told RacingNews365 when asked about Verstappen’s ability.

“Max and Lewis stand out for me, but while we absolutely should not be blind to all that Hamilton has achieved, he does have access to a good package while Max has to get more and more out of his car.

“You can see that by the fact that a driver from Williams qualified directly on the front row of the grid and almost won the race. If someone had to get into Max’s car, if he had coronavirus, they would never reach his level of performance.

Of course, conversations of whether Hamilton or Verstappen is the best driver in F1 are somewhat futile and difficult to contextualise. Hamilton has been dominant and Horner’s opinion is likely unpopular, but the relative performance of their cars is noteworthy.

Moreover, there is no denying the pay gap between Hamilton and every driver, and whether he likes it or not, such high investment demands high performance.

Hamilton has shown no signs that he cannot deliver on Mercedes’ investment, but what goes before is irrelevant to his 2021 value and particularly in the current circumstances, when Mercedes has been hit like every other company by the coronavirus pandemic.

For Mercedes, Hamilton must be worth substantially more than any other driver out there. And for Hamilton, he must simply deliver where it matters most to his team: on the track.