Formula One: Mercedes in no rush to finalise Lewis Hamilton contract

Hamilton celebrates on the podium with team principle Toto Wolff after winning the Turkish grand prix and the world championship in November 2020. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (AFP) - Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has described a new contract for Lewis Hamilton as a "no-brainer" but insisted on Friday (Dec 18) there was no hurry for the world champion to sign on the dotted line.

The British driver claimed his seventh world title last month - equalling Michael Schumacher's record - and sixth in seven years with Mercedes, but is not yet tied to the team for 2021.

Mercedes teased that a deal would be confirmed imminently, with a tweet on Thursday carrying the hashtag "announce'" and a quote from Hamilton emphasising his desire to stay with the team.

There has so far been no update, but Wolff said: "He is on the top of his game and he will be for a while, so that is why continuing together is a no-brainer.

"We always prioritised the championship and not being distracted by sometimes difficult discussions, as is the nature of negotiation.

"And then Covid struck (Hamilton missed the Sakhir Grand Prix in Bahrain after testing positive for the virus) so it has delayed us a bit, but we are not worried in eventually getting it done.

"We are not putting a special date on it. Sooner or later it needs to be done and the latest is when we go testing next year."

Hamilton said after last week's season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix that he wanted to get his deal "tied up before Christmas".

Pre-season testing is due to take place in early March, most likely in Barcelona.

Ineos share

Mercedes announced earlier on Friday that Wolff had extended his role as team principal and chief executive for a further three years.

The Formula One team also announced that chemicals giant Ineos was taking a one-third share in the team alongside parent company Daimler and Wolff.

Ineos, owned by British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe, will be an equal partner in the team. Daimler will reduce its current 60 per cent shareholding and Wolff will increase his current 30 per cent.

Ineos, which has a growing sports portfolio including football, cycling and sailing interests, was announced as Mercedes' principal partner earlier this year.

"Big challenges are a core part of our mindset at Ineos and our involvement across a number of different sports demonstrates that we always aim for the very best," said Ineos chairman Ratcliffe.

"When we entered Formula One earlier this year, we chose to do so with a Mercedes team that had set new benchmarks, and since then we have been in discussions about how we could increase our involvement."

Wolff said: "This new investment from Ineos confirms that the business case for Formula One teams is robust and sends an important signal of confidence in the sport after a challenging year."

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