Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton signs £40m deal having turned down approach

• Contract makes driver highest paid British sportsperson
• ‘I have never been so confident within my team’

Lewis Hamilton, having finally concluded his new contract with Mercedes for a further two years, has suggested his passion for Formula One is such that he will likely race on for even longer. Mercedes announced on Thursday he had signed a deal to take him to the end of the 2020 season, reportedly worth £40m a year, making him Britain’s highest paid sportsperson.

The extension has been painfully slow in coming, although speaking before Sunday’s German Grand Prix he insisted there had been no sticking points. However, he did admit that he had been approached by another team, almost certainly Ferrari or Red Bull, but said he “did not give it any air”. The British driver revealed that the bulk of the deal had been sealed over the week of the Monaco Grand Prix.

The four-times world champion has secured three of his titles with Mercedes since he joined them from McLaren in 2013. They have been the dominant force in F1 since the turbo-hybrid era began in 2014 and it is clear they will remain championship contenders until the new regulations are brought in for 2021.

Hamilton is now 33 and said he wanted to wait and see what shape the sport would take after 2020 before committing to continuing his career but he insisted his enthusiasm for competing remained.

“I still feel pretty great,” he said. “I wasn’t expecting to be feeling as excited as I am now in this signing to extend the contract. I am also very, very conscious of how long it is beyond retirement. I was sitting up here and looking at the old part of the circuit here and there are so many great reasons to remain a part of the sport.”

The Mercedes team principal, Toto Wolff, has already expressed his belief Hamilton could go on longer. “I think he has another five very good years in him,” he said at Silverstone. “If in two years’ time we still feel the same about each other, have trust, I think it would be clear that we continue.”

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This year he is in an exceptionally tight fight for the title with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who leads the British driver by eight points, but Hamilton is convinced he has been right to stay with Mercedes.

“I have never been so confident within my team,” he said. “I have never felt so confident and empowered by the things I have learned since the last race. I truly believe we have what it takes to combat whatever we are faced with but it is going to be close.”

The extension has also raised the possibility that Hamilton could match Michael Schumacher’s record of seven titles, which he conceded would be unlikely but remained a target. “It is 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 now until the end of the contract. Whilst that is the goal, and that is the dream scenario, nothing ever goes perfectly. I didn’t set out in the two years to give me time to do that but I am going to work towards it.”


Giles Richards in Hockenheim

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