MONZA (Italy) • Lewis Hamilton predicts that he has six years left in Formula One and plans to extend his contract with Mercedes beyond next year.
The Briton appears to be committed to the team who have helped him to win two of his three world titles and, while Toto Wolff, the Mercedes executive director, said last week that any contract talks would not take place before the end of the season, Hamilton believes they could begin sooner.
"I plan to extend with the team, which we will do at some point in the second half of the season or towards the end of the year," the 32-year-old said before tomorrow's Italian Grand Prix race.
"I know Toto said that we will wait until the end of the season because that is what I like to do. I still have another year, so we still have a lot of time."
Hamilton has won two world championships with Mercedes since he joined them in 2013. He has been generally positive about their relationship and hinted at seeing out his career with the team. His contract, signed in 2015, is understood to have been worth £100 million (S$176 million).
There was speculation that Hamilton could move to Ferrari but that seems to have been quashed after Sebastian Vettel surprised the paddock by signing a three-year deal with the Italian team.
However, the exact details of the contract have not been made public and the German has been known to insert clauses that allow him to leave a contract early.
"It doesn't really change much for me," said Hamilton, who trails Vettel by seven points in the world championship after a tense battle in Belgium from which the British driver emerged on top.
"It is good for Sebastian that he has signed there. All things happen for a reason. In the plan that I have coming up, with the five or six years that I have left in the sport, that piece in the puzzle is now in place so it makes my decision a lot easier."
There is a possibility, of course, that Hamilton could move to Ferrari after any contract extension and Vettel has been linked with a move to Mercedes.
Niki Lauda, the non-executive chairman of Mercedes, has said that he discussed plans with the German but those talks stopped a couple of months ago. Wolff denied that any formal conversations had taken place with Vettel.
"I am made aware of who contacts the team and that is down to a really great relationship I have with Toto," Hamilton said. "It is interesting to hear who is trying to either take my seat or take the seat next door to me."
Hamilton added he had not made inquiries with other teams and that were he to do so, his relationship with Mercedes is such he would inform them he was considering his options. However, he was adamant he has already considered his career path.
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