HOCKENHEIM • Four-time Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton ended months of speculation about his future yesterday by signing a new two-year deal that will keep him at Mercedes until the end of 2020.
The Briton would have been out of contract at the end of this season and the negotiations have been a major talking point in the paddock.
No financial details were given but British media reports suggested the new deal could be worth up to £40 million (S$71 million) a year, making him Britain's highest-paid sportsperson.
The news is now likely to trigger other driver decisions, with Australian Daniel Ricciardo set to remain with Red Bull. Hamilton's team-mate Valtteri Bottas is also out of contract at the end of the year, but there was no mention of the Finn in yesterday's statement.
"This contract extension has basically been a formality since (team chief) Toto (Wolff) and I sat down during the winter, so it's good to put pen to paper, announce it and then get on with business as usual," Hamilton, 33, said ahead of Sunday's German Grand Prix.
"I have been part of the Mercedes racing family for 20 years and I have never been happier. I'm very confident that Mercedes is the right place to be."
Hamilton, who is is eight points adrift of Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel, is chasing his fifth world crown to join Michael Schumacher and Juan Manuel Fangio as the only other driver to have won more than four titles. He has 65 grand prix wins, second only to Schumacher, and holds the record for the most pole positions, 76 times.
He also enjoys a celebrity lifestyle with plenty of interests - mainly in music and fashion - and there have been questions about his commitment to the sport. But he assured fans he was still hungry for success on the race track.
"The competitive passion that burns bright inside me is shared by every single member of this group - always chasing the next improvement to make sure we come out on top," he said. "I can't wait to see what we can achieve together in the next 21/2 seasons."
Wolff also hailed Hamilton as "one of the all-time greats".
"There is not much about Lewis as a Formula One driver that hasn't been said already, his track record speaks for itself," he said.
"But what I enjoy most about working with him is getting to know the man inside the racing helmet: his relentless drive for self-improvement, his emotional intelligence as a team member and his loyalty to those around him."
REUTERS, THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE