Four-time Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton ended months of speculation about his future by signing a new two-year contract that will keep him with the Mercedes team until the end of 2020.
The 33-year-old British driver’s contract was due to expire at the end of this season and negotiations on its possible extension were one of the main topics of discussion in the “paddock”.
Mercedes did not disclose the financial details of the deal in a press release, but the British media reported that the new contract would be for £40 million ($52 million) a year, making Hamilton the highest paid driver in Formula 1.
Hamilton’s current team-mate, Valtteri Bottas, also ends his contract at the end of the year, but the Finnish was not mentioned in Thursday’s press release.
“This contract extension has basically been a formality since (team chief) 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 ahead of Sunday’s German Grand Prix.
“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,” he added.
“I’m very confident that Mercedes is the right place to be over the coming years.”
While Hamilton was expected to remain with a team with which he has achieved many successes, there are still doubts about his commitment to F1.
Hamilton, who won his first F1 title with McLaren, enjoys the lifestyle of a celebrity and has many interests, ranging from music to fashion, outside the sporting arena, so questions constantly arise about how long he will continue to run.
But the Briton, who won 65 Grand Prix titles and held a record 76 pole positions in 218 races, said Thursday he was still hungry for wins.
“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.
The Briton is currently eight points adrift of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, also a four-time world champion, at the halfway point in the season. Vettel has won four races this year to his rival’s three.
Wolff recognized there had been plenty of speculation in recent months and was happy to put it to bed.
“It’s good to put all of that to rest and get this thing announced,” he said. “We signed the final documents this week and didn’t want to keep people waiting any longer.”