Thursday 18 January 2018

Contract delay a pain but not a distraction - Hamilton

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain walks at the paddock of Shanghai International Circuit in Shanghai, China
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain walks at the paddock of Shanghai International Circuit in Shanghai, China

Daniel Johnson

Lewis Hamilton arrived in Shanghai last night with two grumbles: the delay in finalising his new Mercedes contract, and the reaction to his and his team’s humbling by Ferrari in the Malaysian Grand Prix.

Hamilton, who finished second behind Sebastian Vettel in Sepang, described the continued delay over his deal as a “pain in the backside”. He had not wanted negotiating himself to be a distraction but it increasingly appears to be one, even if Hamilton denies it.

The 30-year-old assured reporters nearly two weeks ago that it was “99.6pc done” and there was no reason it would not be completed within a week. But he has had to read reams of legalese in the contract, prompting time-consuming exchanges between his and Mercedes’ lawyers.

The delay appears to be down to tinkering, perhaps some final haggling over the salary and bonus structure which could mean Hamilton earns more than £30m a year.

Fernando Alonso, the most likely suitor if Hamilton were to leave Mercedes, effectively ruled himself out of any possible vacancy yesterday. In reflective mood, having seen the team he left at the end of last season triumph in Malaysia, Alonso said he will finish in Formula One with McLaren-Honda.

Hamilton was more businesslike. Asked what was causing the hold-up, he said: “It’s not just me, it’s back and forth, back and forth. There are things that are done, there are things that are not done. I thought it was going to be done after Malaysia, but there are things that still need to be done.

“It’s not a distraction. I’ve still got a lot of reading to do. I’m really relaxed about it.”

Hamilton said the significance of Vettel’s win in Malaysia had been exaggerated.

“It wasn’t the best of weekends - there were lots of things we did wrong, lots of things we could have done better - but it wasn’t a big disaster,” he added. “People have definitely blown it out of proportion and hopefully we will correct that this weekend.”

It is the great unknown this weekend: whether Ferrari can keep pace with Mercedes. Realistically, even if not this year, Ferrari are probably the only team in Formula One who have the allure and resources to tempt Hamilton away from the Silver Arrows. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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