Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton leads the pack. File/AP
Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton will chase a record eighth title with Mercedes for a ninth season after signing a one-year deal, the team said in a statement on Monday that ended any uncertainty about his immediate future.
The 36-year-old Briton had been out of contract since the end of last year but the negotiations had turned into something of a saga, with questions raised about why it was taking so long.
Since joining Mercedes for the 2013 season, Hamilton has won six world championship titles — moving him level with Michael Schumacher on a record seven for his career, according to The Associated Press.
World champion Lewis Hamilton poses with a trophy. File photo
"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,” said Hamilton, who has won 74 races with Mercedes.
Hamilton, the sport's only Black driver and its most successful racer, has used his platform and profile increasingly to push for equal opportunities and speak out against racial injustice.
As part of his new deal, Mercedes and Hamilton have established a charitable foundation in a commitment to "supporting greater diversity and inclusion in all its forms in motorsport,” the team said.
"I am grateful that Mercedes has been extremely supportive of my call to address this issue,” Hamilton said.
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff said the two parties took time to agree to a new deal because of the effects of the pandemic.
"We have always been aligned with Lewis that we would continue," Wolff said, "but the very unusual year we had in 2020 meant it took some time to finish the process.”
"The story of Mercedes and Lewis,” Wolff added, "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.”The 2021 F1 season begins in Bahrain next month.
The race is expected to join nine other grands prix that have already been cancelled or postponed this season as Formula One grapples with the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic.
The six-time world champion and current standings leader has always drawn energy from the big crowds that support him at Silverstone, but this year's event will be run behind closed doors in front of empty grandstands.
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