Lewis Hamilton rejects contract and disaster in the US – F1’s best summer dramas

The seemingly never-ending saga that is Lewis Hamilton’s new Mercedes contract has dominated the discussion in F1 this summer, but the seven-time champion’s links with the Scuderia are nothing compared to some of the sport’s summer dramas of the past.

Hamilton is approaching the end of his contract with Mercedes, but the two parties have been locked into negotiations since the start of the summer. With no new deal yet announced, fans are starting to worry that there may be more to the saga than meets the eye.

Team principal Toto Wolff suggested during a CNBC television interview at the start of June that: “I think we are talking more days than weeks,” but more than two months later, there has been no official announcement regarding an extension of the partnership.

Instead, reports from Italian news outlet QN Motori suggested that the seven-time world champion has been personally contacted by Ferrari officials, with president John Elkann and team principal Fred Vasseur both proposing their vision to Hamilton with no success.

With Hamilton’s contract debacle still raging on, it looks unlikely that a resolution will be made public before the end of the summer, and if the Briton’s contract for the 2021 season is anything to go by, we could be waiting even longer than that. 

As the wait for the return of on-track action continues, let’s take a look back at some of the most controversial summer dramas in modern F1 history.

No luck for Nyck

The most recent mid-season controversy played out just over one month ago with Nyck de Vries losing his seat with AlphaTauri after a mere ten races with the Faenza-based outfit, suffering the sack after the British Grand Prix in July.

De Vries, who joined the team as a Formula 2 and Formula E champion, earned the drive off the back of an immense substitute display for Williams in 2023 but failed to impress during his time in the spotlight. The Dutch driver was regularly beaten in both qualifying and the races by team-mate Yuki Tsunoda as he struggled to get to grips with the AT04.

With ten races under his belt and no points to show for his efforts, the 28-year-old was brutally ditched in favour of bringing Daniel Ricciardo back into the fold. Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko made the call after watching the Aussie impress at the Pirelli tyre test with Nyck dismissed before the session was over.

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Ricciardo’s risky move

Ricciardo has himself been at the centre of some summer break drama. The beloved Aussie was engaged in an intense inter-team rivalry with future world champion Max Verstappen at Red Bull during the 2018 season when he made an unexpected career choice.

The now-34-year-old picked up seven wins during his time with Red Bull, but the reliability issues that plagued the Honda engine in 2018, combined with the team’s perceived preference towards his Dutch team-mate prompted a switch to Renault.

Ricciardo’s departure was a shock to the entire F1 community given that Renault were firmly lodged into the midfield battle, and lo and behold the Aussie failed to record a race win during his time with the team before jumping ship to McLaren in 2021. 

Not so pretty in pink

When the cars headed out on track for 2020 pre-season testing, eyes were immediately drawn to the two Racing Point cars. The Silverstone-based team, who would late rebrand as Aston Martin, had produced a car that looked alarmingly similar to the previous season’s Mercedes, albeit with a glossy pink livery

Nicknamed the ‘Tracing Point’ and ‘Pink Mercedes’ by fans, the team’s antics drew more serious complaints from rivals Renault. The French manufacturer protested Racing Point’s brake ducts and did so successfully.

In August 2020, the team were fined just over £340,000 (€400,000) and had 7.5 points docked from both Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll’s tallies, making them the most recent team to suffer a deduction in F1. 

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Scandal in the States

F1 summer chaos hasn’t been restricted to just driver moves and team scandals. In June 2005, the cars travelled to the legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the United States Grand Prix as the sport looked to increase its popularity in the North American market. What followed was the most farcical Grand Prix in F1 history.

Back in 2005 the tyre war was still a factor in F1, so when Ralf Schumacher and Ricardo Zonta suffered tyre failures during practice, eyebrows were raised. After a drawn-out saga, it was deemed unsafe for those on Michelin rubber to start the race, and 14 drivers peeled into the pit lane on the formation lap. 

What followed was a 73-lap shell of a Grand Prix. Only the Ferrari, Jordan and Minardi drivers, all of whom were running Bridgestone tyres, started the race with Michael Schumacher taking the victory ahead of team-mate Rubens Barrichello. A whole lap further back, Tiago Monteiro got his maiden and only F1 podium. The event was an embarrassment for the sport and set F1 back in its bid to infiltrate the US market.

Early exit for Montoya

Juan Pablo Montoya is an Indy500 and Monaco Grand Prix winner, but the Colombian’s F1 career came to an abrupt end in the summer of 2006 following a dismal weekend in the United States.

Inconsistent performances and disagreements within the McLaren team had already sparked rumours that he would be departing at the end of the season. After causing a multi-car incident at the 2006 United States Grand Prix, the relationship was at breaking point. 

In early July, Montoya announced that he was calling time on his F1 career at the end of the season, announcing a switch to NASCAR racing. McLaren had a different idea though, dismissing the Colombian two days later and bringing in Pedro de la Rosa to drive his car for the remainder of the 2006 campaign.

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