Lewis Hamilton Mercedes deal - will McLaren take the bait?
Eddie Jordan claims driver will replace Schumacher, but others say it is just a ploy
LEWIS HAMILTON could quit McLaren to join Formula 1 rivals Mercedes, and has been offered a deal worth £60m over three years by the German manufacturer, it has been claimed.
BBC pundit Eddie Jordan yesterday announced that the 2008 world champion, who has experienced mixed fortunes over the last few seasons, was on the verge of leaving McLaren, the team he has been with since the age of 13.
"I believe Hamilton and Mercedes have already agreed personal terms and a deal could be imminent," said Jordan. He explained that Hamilton was being lined up to replace Michael Schumacher who is expected to bow out of Formula 1 for a second time at the end of the year after a largely unsuccessful comeback.
The British driver is being offered a better deal by Mercedes and the move makes "a lot of sense" for Hamilton and his manager Simon Fuller, according to Jordan. "Fuller is trying to position Hamilton as a major global star, like Beckham, and Mercedes is a much bigger global brand than McLaren," said the analyst.
The Daily Mail reports that Hamilton could earn £20m a year with Mercedes. "Matching his £15m-a-year earnings at McLaren would not be an issue," said the paper. "The 2008 world champion could boost his money further with bonuses based on results while it is understood he may be offered more freedom regarding personal sponsorship agreements."
However, the Mail stopped short of saying that Hamilton was leaving McLaren. Instead, it said the interest from Mercedes gave him a "significant bargaining chip" in negotiations with his current employers.
Hamilton's management team have also denied the story although The Daily Telegraph said that talks between the driver and the German car maker had taken place.
But could it all be a ploy? "One cynical rumour doing the rounds on Wednesday night was that the story may have come from Hamilton's camp," said The Guardian. "With Red Bull and Ferrari not interested in signing the driver the story that Mercedes were keen might be used as a bargaining chip."
The Telegraph concurs. It said: "Within the sport it is still believed most likely that Hamilton will remain at Woking and that talks with rival teams are designed to strengthen his bargaining position with McLaren."
Meanwhile The Times brushed aside the story. It said Jordan had simply "joined up the dots... which kick-started the rumour mill". It also said that Hamilton would stick with McLaren.