London – Lewis Hamilton is seeking £40 million (R850 million) a year to sign a new deal at Mercedes. The six-time world champion, whose contract is due to expire at the end of this year, will lay out his terms when he opens serious negotiations with team principal Toto Wolff over the next few weeks.
Sportsmail understands from a source close to Hamilton (35) that he is seeking an improvement on his current salary, from approximately £36m (R765m) to £40m.
Such largesse would mark Hamilton out as clearly the best-paid driver on the grid, and augment his estimated £224m (R4.7bn) personal fortune that makes him the richest sportsman that the UK has ever produced.
Talks fell into abeyance during the Covid-19-plagued hiatus in racing, but Mercedes now expect progress while Hamilton and Wolff spend a long spell on the road together as Formula One journeys through the European season, starting with Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix.
Both sides claim they are relaxed about reaching an agreement, saying they trust each other implicitly. The fact that Ferrari has settled its driver line-up – bringing in Carlos Sainz to partner Charles Leclerc next season – reduces the options, and somewhat limits Hamilton’s bargaining power.
However, Wolff’s future – and rumours over Mercedes’s long-term involvement in the sport – may yet have a bearing. Wolff is likely to remain in charge, though he will probably switch to a more removed chairman-like role.
The team is adamant that it will remain in the sport, describing reports to the contrary as a case of “the devil makes work for idle hands”.
Of interest will be the length of any deal, with Hamilton torn between, on one hand, a desire to see out his career at Mercedes – with all the life-long, commercial ambassadorial opportunities that presents – and, on the other, scratching an itch to sign off with a final flourish at Ferrari.
Respected Sky Sports pundit Martin Brundle said: “If Toto left Mercedes and they rowed back on F1 in light of the pandemic issues and the cost cuts coming in, then I think Lewis might have to turn again to have a look at Ferrari. I would if I were him.
“I’ve spoken to him about being dressed in red and standing on that podium at Monza and looking at the crowd in Ferrari overalls. He said, “I love red, I’ve got red in my crash helmet, it’s the colour of passion”. But his stock answer is, “I’ve raced for Mercedes all of my F1 career.”
It is thought Sainz, who is currently at McLaren, is only tied to Ferrari for 2021, meaning there could yet be space for Hamilton the following year.