Hamilton signs two-year Mercedes extension

By Sports Desk July 03, 2021

Lewis Hamilton has signed a new two-year contract with Mercedes, running until the end of the 2023 Formula One season.

The 36-year-old is chasing a record-breaking eighth world championship this season, having won six of his previous seven with Mercedes, who he joined from McLaren in 2012.

Hamilton confirmed "positive" discussions last month and can now focus fully on attempting to overhaul Red Bull's Max Verstappen, who has opened up an 18-point lead in the drivers' standings after eight rounds of the 2021 season.

"It is hard to believe it’s been nearly nine years working with this incredible team and I'm excited we're going to continue our partnership for two more years," Hamilton said.

"We've accomplished so much together but we still have a lot to achieve, both on and off the track."

This latest prompt renewal is in stark contrast to Hamilton's contract situation for the current campaign.

The compressed 2020 schedule and then Hamilton and Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff both testing positive for COVID-19 contributed to the world champion ending the year out of contract. He did not pen his most recent one-year deal until February.

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    Formula One has arrived at the most prestigious race on the calendar, and Ferrari's Charles Leclerc would be desperate to end an awful run of form at his home race.

    Born and raised in Monaco, Leclerc's string of bad luck on the historic circuit dates back to his days in Formula Two, where he set the F2 lap record in 2017 before suspension problems caused a DNF.

    The next year, in F1, he was in the points for Sauber before brake failure led to a crash with Brendan Hartley.

    After poor strategy and Q1 elimination in his first Monaco Grand Prix for Ferrari in 2019, Leclerc charged up the field early on but pushed a little too hard and collided with Romain Grosjean at Rascasse.

    In 2021, he surprisingly stuck an inferior Ferrari on pole position but crashed at the end of Q3, and extensive drive-shaft damage led to him cruelly retiring on the formation lap.

    The 24-year-old became the first Monegasque to claim pole, but his three DNFs – from as many F1 entries – are his most at any circuit.

    Despite ending up in the barriers on a demonstration lap in Niki Lauda's Ferrari last week, another pole could finally put Leclerc on the top step in his home race.

    Twelve of the past 17 winners at Monaco have started from pole, as little room to overtake with bigger cars on Monte Carlo's notoriously tight streets makes track position critical.

    It would be a welcome way for Leclerc to buck his trend of failing to convert poles into race victories, winning only four times from 13 starts at the front of the grid.

    The title race adds another dimension, with Max Verstappen taking a six-point lead from him in the drivers' standings after successive victories at Imola, Miami and Barcelona.

    In-form Red Bull with records in sight

    Monaco has been a happy hunting ground for Red Bull, and this weekend could bring a number of records for the team.

    This weekend could see Red Bull claim their highest number of race wins (six), pole positions (six), podiums (24, with both drivers) and points earned at a circuit, surpassing the 356 collected in Spain.

    Meanwhile, reigning world champion Verstappen has the chance to record the longest winning streak of his career, beating last year's three wins between France and Austria.

    Ricciardo in need of renaissance

    Daniel Ricciardo has come under criticism from McLaren team principal Zak Brown for his recent performances, with a clear need for improvement.

    The 32-year-old suffered one of the lowest points of his career last year in Monte Carlo, when he was lapped by teammate Lando Norris.

    Ricciardo is suffering his worst streak of finishes outside the points (three) since 2012, when he had five consecutive empty-handed returns for Toro Rosso.

    CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

    Drivers

    1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 110
    2. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 104
    3. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) 85
    4. George Russell (Mercedes) 74
    5. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) 65

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    1. Red Bull 195
    2. Ferrari 169
    3. Mercedes 120
    4. McLaren 50
    5. Alfa Romeo 39

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    "To have that problem and come back, it felt like some of the older races I've done," Hamilton said. "It feels amazing.

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