Hockenheim (Germany): Four-time Formula One (F1) World Champion Lewis Hamilton ended months of speculation about his future by signing Thursday a new two-year deal which will keep him at his Mercedes team until the end of 2020. The deal is worth a reported 40 million pounds ($52mn) per year, cementing the British star’s status as F1’s highest paid driver and his country’s top earning sportsman.
The 33-year-old Briton would have been out of contract at the end of this season and the negotiations have been a major talking point in the paddock.
Hamilton insisted he had always been on course to remain with Mercedes. “This contract extension has basically been a formality since Toto (Wolff) and I sat down during the winter, so it’s good to put pen to paper, announce it and then get on with business as usual,” Hamilton said on Merc’s website.
“I have been part of the Mercedes racing family for 20 years and I have never been happier inside a team than I am right now. I am looking forward to winning more in the future,” added the driver.
Thursday’s announcement is now likely to trigger other driver decisions, with Australian Daniel Ricciardo set to remain with Red Bull but waiting for Mercedes to set out their plans.
Hamilton’s current teammate Valtteri Bottas is also out of contract at the end of the year and there was no mention of the Finn in Thursday’s statement.
While Hamilton had been expected to stay with the team that won both the drivers’ and constructors’ titles for the past four years, there had still been some lingering doubts about his commitment to the sport.
Hamilton, who won his first title with McLaren, enjoys a celebrity lifestyle with plenty of interests — mainly in music and fashion — outside of Formula One and there have been questions about how long he will race on for.
The Briton, winner of 65 Grands Prix and with a record 76 career pole positions from 218 races, said Thursday that he was still hungry for success.
“The competitive passion that burns bright inside me is shared by every single member of this group — always chasing the next improvement and digging even deeper to make sure we come out on top,” he said. “I can’t wait to see what we can achieve together in the next two-and-a-half seasons.”
The Briton is currently eight points adrift of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, also a four-time World Champion, at the half-way point in the season. Vettel has won four races this year to his rival’s three.
- No mention in the Merc statement about future of Valtteri Bottas whose contract also ends this year
- The 40mn pound deal makes Hamilton the top earning sportspersons in Great Britain
- Hamilton has so far won 65 Grand Prix races and achieved 76 pole positions