Hamilton '99.6%' done on new Mercedes £27m deal
Lewis Hamilton is closing on a new Mercedes deal reportedly worth £27 million a year and he expects it to be finalised this week.
The reigning world champion has this current season left on his existing contract and has been negotiating a new deal without the help of a management company since last year.
"It should be done this week," he said. "There is no reason it shouldn't. Honestly, it's 99.6% done. There's no negotiating left, it's just legal stuff."
The BBC reported that the basic deal is worth $31 million (£20.9 million) a year but with bonuses for winning races and the championship could reach as much as $40 million (£27 million) over the course of the season. Hamilton's contract talks were put on hold last year to allow him to focus on the championship, but he always remained adamant he would not look elsewhere. Despite Sebastian Vettel's victory for Ferrari in Malaysia, Mercedes is still the class of the field and offers him the best chance of racking up multiple world championships in the coming years.
Although it's unlikely it would have made any difference to negotiations, Hamilton was heaped with praise by the F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone at the weekend, who said he was the best ambassador for the sport and deserves the big pay cheque he gets.
"Lewis has been the best world champion we've had," Ecclestone said. "Apart from the fact he's talented, he's a good guy, he gets out on the street and supports and promotes Formula One. It's always good whatever he says, even if it's silly. It's great for the sport.
"I told Sebastian: 'You should be doing what he's doing.' Doing the job of world champion. He was the champion and got paid money for that, and these guys think their only job is racing a racing car. It goes a bit further than that.
"What these guys don't think about is that today Jackie Stewart is still making quite a bit of money and he hasn't been in a car for quite a few years. It works because he's looked after his image and he still does a good job. Perhaps these guys think when they stop 'that'll be it.'"
According to German reports, his team-mate Nico Rosberg is signed up on a basic deal worth £14.3 million per year until the end of 2017. But while Hamilton will out-earn his team-mate, his new deal from 2016 will bring him onto a similar level as the other two multiple world champions on the grid Fernando Alonso and Vettel, who both moved teams over the winter.
But despite Alonso's big earnings at his new team McLaren, Hamilton said he felt for the Spaniard who appears to have moved from Ferrari just as it rediscovered its form.
"I was sitting next to Sebastian [in the press conference] and I thought to myself: 'What is Fernando thinking?'," Hamilton said. "I remember when I left McLaren and joined Mercedes, we were better the next year. I had a good feeling then. But he's almost done the opposite of what I did. It could have been him (winning in Malaysia). It's just strange how things turn out."