Lewis Hamilton signs Mercedes deal as contract saga ends

Lewis Hamilton celebrates
Lewis Hamilton celebrates

Lewis Hamilton refused to rule out that championship rivals Ferrari attempted to lure him away from Mercedes.

Hamilton put an end to more than seven months of agonising contract negotiations to finally commit his future to both Formula One and the Silver Arrows with a deal which will see him become the sport's first £40million-a-year driver.

Hamilton's new two-season deal will also cement his status as Britain's biggest sporting earner, with the 33-year-old who was raised on a council estate in Stevenage, set to earn close to £2m a race until the end of 2020.

The announcement comes on the eve of Mercedes' home event in Germany with Hamilton trailing Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel by eight points.

"In terms of other teams approaching [me], one did, but I didn't give it any air," Hamilton said.

Pushed on whether the team was Ferrari, he replied: "You can make whatever assumption you want."

Both Red Bull, who pay Max Verstappen in excess of £20m, and McLaren, the Woking team with which Hamilton started his phenomenal career, distanced themselves from the Brit's claim.

Ferrari, a team that Hamilton has made no secret of his admiration for, are the only other constructor which has the financial muscle to compete with Mercedes.

Indeed, Hamilton could yet see out his career with the Italian marque. His latest contract is aligned with Vettel's current deal.

But for now, Hamilton's immediate future rests with a team which he has won a staggering 44 races and three of his four championships.

"It is impossible to say where I am going to be in two years and how I will feel," Hamilton added. "I still feel pretty great and I wasn't expected to feel as excited as I am now in signing this extension.

"I am also very conscious of how long it is beyond retirement.

"I was sitting above here [the Mercedes' motorhome] and looking at the old part of the circuit and there are just so many reasons to remain a part of the sport. Who knows? Maybe in two years my life will be completely different and I will want completely different things. Time will tell."

Hamilton is chasing his fifth world crown this season to join Michael Schumacher and Juan Manuel Fangio as only the third driver to have won more than four titles.

He is second to Schumacher, in terms of victories, and holds the record for the most pole positions in the sport's history. But does Hamilton believe the great German's haul of seven championships is attainable?

"It's an unimaginable number at the moment," he said. "It just doesn't make sense to think that you are going to win every single championship between now and the end of the contract.

"Whilst that is the goal, and that is the dream scenario, nothing ever goes perfectly, but I am going to work towards it."

Hamilton's decision to stay with Mercedes is set to have a domino effect on the driver market for 2019.

Hamilton is likely to be partnered by Valtteri Bottas for a third year with Mercedes content that the Finn is doing enough to retain his seat.

Daniel Ricciardo, a two-time winner this season, is out of contract at Red Bull, but Mercedes do not appear to want to risk rocking their ship.

The identity of Vettel's team-mate next season, however, is uncertain with highly-rated rookie Charles Leclerc mooted to replace Kimi Raikkonen at Ferrari.

"I like Kimi and we get along," Vettel said ahead of his home race. "We have never any issue. He is great to work with and great for the team, but it's not my decision."

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