MERCEDES chiefs vowed to keep Lewis Hamilton at the team “for a long time” after the British driver clinched his second Formula One world championship in Abu Dhabi yesterday.
Hamilton won his 11th grand prix of the season as a mechanical failure prevented colleague and closest title rival Nico Rosberg from turning the decider into a nail-biting finale.
The Englishman, who won his first crown in 2008, is Britain’s fourth double champion but needs one more to equal Sir Jackie Stewart and was labelled “an absolute legend” by the watching Prince Harry.
Today he is set to resume talks over an extension to his £20m-a-year contract, which expires at the end of next season, and Mercedes are in no doubt they want to keep the 29-year-old.
Non-executive chairman Niki Lauda, himself a three-time world champion, said the team would renew Hamilton’s deal for “more years”.
Racing boss Toto Wolff added: “We have a world champion who deserved to be a world champion. We would like to sign Lewis up for a long time. He fits in so well with the team. When he wakes up tomorrow after a long night we will talk contracts.”
Hamilton is thought to he happy to stay at a team with the fastest car of 2014, though yesterday’s triumph will strengthen his hand amid talk of a reduction in his salary.
The Stevenage-born driver called his second title sweeter than his first and said it had vindicated his switch from boyhood team McLaren at the end of 2012.
“This is the greatest day of my life. 2008 was a special time; [but] the feeling I have now is way, way past that and above and beyond. It’s the greatest feeling I’ve ever had,” he said.
“This has been an incredible year. I cannot believe how amazing it has all been: coming to this team, when people said it was the wrong choice, and the steps we took last year and this year is unbelievable. This is like an outside-the-body experience.”
Hamilton, joined by Williams pair Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas on the podium yesterday, praised Rosberg for staging “an incredible fight”, even though the German was unable to bring the double points in use at the final race for the first time into play.
Rosberg, who finished 14th at Yas Marina, played down the significance of his engine problem to the title fight, adding: “He deserved to win today and he deserved to win the championship. He was that little bit better so it is fully deserved.”
Tensions between the pair rose earlier in the season after a collision in Belgium, and Rosberg could have taken his first title by winning in Abu Dhabi, had Hamilton finished third. Prince Harry congratulated Hamilton over the Mercedes team radio after he took the chequered flag. He said: “Lewis, well done for not making the British public sweat. You are an absolute legend.”
The last time a Briton – Sir Jackie Stewart – won a second Formula One world championship
Number of wins Lewis Hamilton achieved this season, making him the first non-German driver to do so
Grand prix victories in Hamilton's career, lifting him above Fernando Alonso to fifth in the all-time list
Every driver who has won four consecutive races in a season, as Hamilton did in 2014, has gone on to win the title
Number of years since a Mercedes driver had last won the world championship (Jose Manuel Fangio in 1955)