World champion Lewis Hamilton has confirmed that he is close to signing a new contract with Mercedes and that the agreement could be announced before the new season begins next month.
Britain’s most successful racing driver is expected to commit to the team until the end of the 2021 season on a deal that would increase his salary to £40m a year.
Hamilton’s current contract with Mercedes is believed to earn him around £32m a year and is due to expire at the end of the new campaign, which gets under way in Australia on 25 March.
“We are comfortable and we are committed to each other. It’s just about sorting out the details,” said the 33-year-old.
“Hopefully we will have something done by the first race but we are in no rush. There is no reason to rush anything, no panic, I’m not feeling under any pressure of any other drivers in there and Toto [Wolff, team boss] and Mercedes have no reason to feel that I’m talking to anybody else. In the whole six years that I’ve been here, I haven’t spoken to another team once and I think that shows my commitment.”
Hamilton, who has won three of his four Formula One titles at Mercedes, is already among the best paid drivers but a new deal would likely make him the top earner on the grid, where salaries can be secretive.
Mercedes chief Wolff, speaking at the launch of the team’s new W09 car on Thursday, refused to be held to a timeframe but confirmed that a deal was imminent.
“We’ve had very good discussions, ticking the dots, and are expecting to come up with some news soon,” he said.
“The minute you put the date out, you are going to be remembered about the date and it doesn’t make any sense to put ourselves under pressure.
“It is important to cover every angle of the corporation. Lewis has been with the team for six years, we are talking about extending that to a very long time. A couple of weeks would be a realistic target.”
Hamilton flirted with talk of retirement at times last season and has played down his hopes of matching Michael Schumacher’s record seven titles. He has, however, spoken of equalling Juan Manuel Fangio’s five crowns, which he could do this year.