Lewis Hamilton has signed a two-year contract extension with Mercedes which is expected to be worth £40 million a year, meaning he remains one of the sports highest earners.
Hamilton, who joined the German manufacturer had been out of contract at the end of the season. The new deal had been negotiated by Hamilton himself over the last few months, with the new contract expected as “a formality”.
The four times champion told BBC News and Sky Sports, “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. 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.”
At Silverstone a fortnight ago, Mercedes CEO and team principal Toto Wolff told the media that the Anglo-German team wanted a five-year deal and that the team was waiting “for the right time” for an announcement.
However, Mercedes haven’t committed to the sport beyond 2020 when the current commercial deal between Liberty Media and the teams expires.
Wolff explained that they didn’t want to keep people waiting, adding “Lewis as a Formula 1 driver that hasn’t been said already – he is one of the all-time greats and his track record speaks for itself.”
Hamilton’s deal means that all of the top three teams, Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari, have there ‘number one’ drivers committed until 2020. What happens after 2020 for the teams and drivers, could depend on the next set of technical and engine regulations due to be introduced the following year.
The Englishman’s six seasons with Mercedes has earned him three world titles, with his former teammate Nico Rosberg earning one. Mercedes have dominated the sport largely since the introduction of the V6 Hybrids in 2014. They also powered him to his maiden title with McLaren in 2008.
Ahead of this weekends German Grand Prix, which marks the halfway point in the season, he is eight points behind Sebastian Vettel. A win in Hockenheim, and Vettel fourth or lower would see him retake the lead of the championship, ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix, next weekend.
However, in the short term, Daniel Ricciardo will be expected to resign for Red Bull until 2020 because all avenues to the leading teams appear closed.
Ferrari is expected to decide between Kimi Raikkonen or Charles Leclerc, who has been impressive during his debut season with Sauber.
Mercedes expected to re-sign Valtteri Bottas, the team has hinted that there is no reason for them not to retain the Finn. A deal is expected in the next few weeks or following the summer break.