Sunday 11 December 2016

No contract dispute with Mercedes - Hamilton

Daniel Johnson

Published 09/05/2015 | 02:30

Lewis Hamilton walks into the garage during practice for the Spanish Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit de Catalunya
Lewis Hamilton walks into the garage during practice for the Spanish Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit de Catalunya
Lewis Hamilton enjoys a quiet moment outside the Mercedes garage during practice in Barcelona yesterday

In the whirlwind existence of Lewis Hamilton, the reigning champion has been spotted all over the world in recent weeks.

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Since the last Formula One race three weeks ago, he has been to the misnamed 'Fight of the Century', driven the old banking at Monza with Stirling Moss, cruised along California's Route 405 in his Shelby Cobra and attended the Met Gala with his friend and Monaco neighbour, the fashion tycoon Philip Green.

In among all that globetrotting he and Mercedes have not managed to reach a conclusion to the issue that preoccupies Formula One more than any other at present: his new contract.

Moss criticised Hamilton's move to his current team but the men have since struck up a friendship, being two drivers cut from the same cloth.

"Driving alongside Stirling, I was looking to my right and seeing him and it felt like I had gone back in time and was back in a real race back in those days," Hamilton said.

"It's the only historic moment I feel I've ever had. I like to think I'm as crazy as his generation were. Naturally we're both crazy about cars and racing and 'crumpet' as he says."

It is not hard to imagine Hamilton racing alongside Moss in the 1950s.

Looking across the banking at one of motor racing's legendary figures, Hamilton even said he felt like Juan Manuel Fangio, the five-time champion and former team-mate of the 85-year-old.

Yet it is not Hamilton's place in the 1955 Mercedes which is generating paddock gossip in Barcelona; it is whether he will be at the team next season and beyond.

The 30-year-old entered formal negotiations with Toto Wolff, the head of Mercedes motorsport, and Niki Lauda, the team's chairman, at the end of January.

By early March, Hamilton said that talks had reached the "final stages". Two months later and not a squeak.

Hamilton has become weary with some of the questioning on the subject. "You should ask Toto really," the two-time champion said last night.

Target

"It's not far away. I think Niki said something about the next race, so that should be the target. There's no questions on agreements. It's formality stuff.

"It's not one person that makes decisions. It has to go through a filter of a billion people."

Therein lies what many believe to be the source of the delay. In a corporate giant as large as Mercedes, contracts worth as much as Hamilton's - perhaps well in excess of £30m - need to go all the way to the boardroom.

Into the vacuum of information, speculation has grown that there is a more fundamental disagreement at hand than simply signing off the new contract.

But the team insist it is just a case of dotting the i's and crossing the t's. Lauda said this week that they hope to announce something before the Monaco Grand Prix on May 24.

One deal that has been completed is Daniel Ricciardo's to remain at Red Bull. The young Australian, arguably the star of last term, has agreed a multi-year extension that is due to be announced in the next month or so.

Ricciardo, who won three races and outperformed Sebastian Vettel last year, has secured a clause which gives him freedom of movement should Red Bull act on their repeated threat to sell the team.

Ricciardo fared markedly worse than Hamilton in practice yesterday, with the Briton in a league of his own at the Circuit de Catalunya.

In the afternoon session Hamilton was 0.4 seconds quicker than Vettel and 0.7 faster than team-mate Nico Rosberg. It appears that Mercedes have retained their advantage over Ferrari.

Meanwhile, McLaren finally showed the fruits of their labour with their best showing in practice all season. McLaren have performed woefully since Honda returned as their engine supplier, but Jenson Button finished eighth, 1.6 seconds off Hamilton's pace.

The gap remains considerable but it is the smallest it has been this year.

Fernando Alonsofinished 11th but suffered worsening problems with an eye infection. The 33-year-old was still shielding his eye yesterday, consulting with doctors and applying ice packs in an effort to reduce the inflammation, though the problem is not expected to affect his race dramatically. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Spanish Grand Prix, Live, Sky Sports GP, tomorrow, 1.0

Telegraph.co.uk

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