F1: Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton to begin talks over new £46.5m-a-year deal
Toto Wolff says the team and driver are an ‘obvious pairing’
Mercedes may have revealed the livery for their 2020 car yesterday, but the biggest topic of conversation remains the future of star driver Lewis Hamilton.
The six-time Formula 1 world champion is out of contract with Mercedes at the end of the upcoming season and it’s recently been reported that the Briton could make a switch to Ferrari in 2021.
Speaking at the W11 livery launch in London, team principal Toto Wolff said the Mercedes-Hamilton partnership is the “obvious pairing going forward”.
He said: “We would like to have the fastest man in the car and I know that Lewis wants to have the fastest car. There is a mutual outcome.”
On speaking with his driver during the winter break, Wolff added: “We travel around the world almost 10 months of the year and get on each other’s nerves every other weekend and what we do over the winter is leave each other in peace.
“The last conversation I had with him was in the evening before the Christmas party, where we had a nice chat and said we would continue our discussion on his future once he is back from America and we start the season.”
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On its back page today The Times reports that Mercedes will begin negotiations with Hamilton this week as they bid to stop the 35-year-old from moving to Ferrari.
Hamilton is currently on a £31m-a-year deal with Mercedes, but the Times says that he could be offered £46.5m-a-year to stay. The Daily Mail estimates it could be nearer £60m annually.
After spending much of the off-season in the United States, Hamilton will return to the team’s headquarters in Brackley, Oxfordshire, on Tuesday.
Wolff is “pretty optimistic” that Hamilton will remain with the team, the Daily Mail reports, but the Austrian says money is not the “sticking point” for the No.1 driver.
“You need to respect that a sporting superstar at the peak of his ability has a limited period to earn this kind of super money,” said Wolff.
“We do respect that and the contribution he brings to Mercedes on and off the track. Equally, Lewis has always respected that we are Mercedes and there are certain financial realities important to us.
“The current environment in the automotive industry is about efficiency and cost-cutting. But money has never been a sticking point with Lewis.
“The last contract negotiation was more about giving him the freedom to pursue his own projects. With him getting older, maybe the freedoms need to change or grow. We want the best guy in qualifying on Saturday and in the race on Sunday, and that is my main focus.
“I am not in any way stressed that we don’t have a signature on the dotted line. I am pretty optimistic that we will.”
After unveiling their W11 livery, Mercedes will now fully launch their 2020 challenger with a Valentine’s Day shakedown at Silverstone on Friday.
F1 pre-season starts on 19 February at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.