Red Bull won’t take Hamilton while they have Max Verstappen and I don’t think there is much appeal at Ferrari given they are yet to convincingly demonstrate they are any closer to winning world titles. A bombshell switch to the much-improved Aston Martin to partner Fernando Alonso feels closer to a Hollywood movie script than reality.
Hamilton insists he is a fighter and everything we have seen so far in his career supports that. The way he handled himself last season was impressive and I don’t see signs of him being demotivated and throwing in the towel just yet. So extending his contract with Mercedes still seems highly likely.
On paper, Hamilton looks to be running out of time to win that as-yet elusive record eighth title he remains determined to claim. Having said that, Alonso’s sublime performances at the age of 41 is proof that age is not necessarily a barrier to success.
2023 may turn out to be another lost opportunity for Hamilton but by admitting defeat this early, Mercedes can still get things right for 2024 – even in the new cost cap era. Mercedes only need to look at Aston Martin’s incredible turnaround for a source of inspiration.
It will be a tough task given Red Bull’s current advantage over the field, but with their development of RB20 expected to be impacted by their penalty for breaching the 2021 cost cap, a Mercedes fightback cannot be ruled out as long as the Silver Arrows are efficient and don’t waste any more time or resources.
If Hamilton can help steer Mercedes back to winning ways and bow out of F1 with an eighth title, it would be a huge achievement that would only further underline his status as one of the all-time greats.
But as things stand another victory, let alone another championship, feels a long way off.
What is the latest with Hamilton’s contract situation?
Hamilton is in the final year of his contract with Mercedes but has already started talks over the winter with team principal Toto Wolff.
Mercedes’ pessimism about their chances entering the new campaign led to suggestions that Hamilton was stalling over a new deal until he knew just how competitive the W14 would turn out to be.
Ahead of the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, the seven-time world champion moved quickly to reject such rumours, insisting he would remain committed to Mercedes regardless.
“Having a difficult year, like we had last year, I’m still here,” Hamilton said. “Whether or not we have a difficult year [this year]… I’ll still be here.
“I’m a fighter, and we fight as a team. I love the challenge of finding solutions and I still believe I’m able to put the car in places that perhaps others are not able to, and I love that challenge.”
Hamilton joked he would sign a contract extension with Mercedes “unless something catastrophic happens”.
As it turned out, the W14 isn’t very competitive and despite curing their porpoising problem, Mercedes look no closer to regularly winning races and fighting for world championships.
Following a tricky first day of proper running, the 38-year-old’s mood changed, with a despondent Hamilton conceding Mercedes are a “long way off” fighting at the front.
Things would only get worse as the weekend went on.
After seeing his cars lagging over six tenths of a second behind Red Bull’s Verstappen in qualifying, Wolff made the extraordinary admission that Mercedes had got it wrong and would need to ditch their radical ‘zero pod’ concept in order to return to winning ways.
Hamilton went on to finish fifth, two places in front of teammate George Russell but almost a minute behind the dominant Red Bulls.
Wolff described Sunday’s grand prix as one of his “worst days in racing” and demanded that his designers go back to the drawing board to come up with “radical” changes.
With 2023 now seemingly looking like a write off following Mercedes’ lacklustre start, Hamilton’s long-term future will continue to be a major source of speculation.