Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton and team principal Toto Wolff have been locked in contract negotiations for the best part of a year and while a number of reasons have previously been attributed as to why the seven-time world champion has been stalling, further clarity has now been achieved.
Hamilton has been a part of Mercedes ever since the team became a frontrunner in the sport, but he has now entered the final few months of his contract even though Wolff had claimed the extension deal would be sealed well before the start of the season.
The British driver knows his commercial value both to Mercedes and the sport all too well and is believed to be hard-balling the Silver Arrows owing to sponsorship commitments.
With time running out on his current deal, a number of other teams expressed an interest in Hamilton’s services.
The most extravagant offer, though, came from one of Hamilton’s personal favourites Ferrari.
But even the Maranello know that it will be next to impossible to attract Hamilton into their team, with team principal Fred Vasseur all but pulling the plug on the move, claiming that Hamilton’s future was up to the man himself and Mercedes.
“Honestly, I’m not focused at all on this,” Vasseur said. “I’m focused on the development of the team and the discussion is between Lewis and Toto and not myself.”
In years gone by, Hamilton had been vocal about his desire to end his F1 career early and enter the entertainment industry.
However, in recent times, he has maintained a strong resolve to stay in the sport and battle it out for an elusive eighth world championship which will see him move past Michael Schumacher as the sport’s most illustrious driver ever.
According to The Sun, Hamilton and Mercedes have more or less decided on the wage and length of the contract extension, but the main sticking point is his sponsorship commitments.
“At the Hungarian GP, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said the two parties had “emotionally” agreed to sign – so why the hold up?” read the report.
“The likelihood is that the duration of the contract – expected to be two years – has been agreed. As well as the wages of around £50 million a year.
“However, the likely sticking point will centre on the amount of time Hamilton will be contractually obliged to be available for Mercedes’ sponsors.
“Hamilton is in the box seat. He knows his worth to Mercedes in terms of his brand and is understandably willing to play hardball.”
This report has been supported by former F1 driver David Coulthard, who believes it is a case of when, rather than if, the deal will be completed.
Coulthard has asserted that the Silver Arrows “will want a certain amount of time from Lewis for their partners” as the team would have “sold sponsorship on obtaining access to their drivers”.
“Some businesses will have signed up with the Silver Arrows because Lewis is there, rather than George Russell. Perhaps Lewis might be wanting to do fewer days or have fewer commitments,” Coulthard said.
Coulthard explained the complex nature of sponsorship agreements, claiming that it pertains to a number of things about the individual away from the track as well, including “what rights he retains in terms of his image, and what rights he sells to the team”.
“Mercedes are buying more than just Lewis’ driving services,” Coulthard said.
“They are buying his promotional image and his PR image.”