Hamilton and Mercedes begin contract talks
You’d expect the reigning drivers’ champion to stick with the reigning constructors’ champion. But it may not be so simple…
Reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton has begun negotiations over a new contract that could keep him at Mercedes beyond 2015.
On the surface, a new deal seems a formality. Hamilton says he wants to stay and the team say they want to keep him. And there are no available alternatives who are anywhere near approaching the calibre of Hamilton.
The only person who ts that description is Fernando Alonso. But he is under contract for three years at McLaren and, according to chairman Ron Dennis, there are no get-out clauses. Daniel Ricciardo, who impressed in 2014, is locked into Red Bull for some time, according to team principal Christian Horner. And Sebastian Vettel is a less appealing prospect, having been demolished by Ricciardo in 2014, and now having a three-year deal with Ferrari.
But things are not as simple as they seem. For one thing, Hamilton and Mercedes had agreed they would wait until the 2014 championship was over before starting talks, to avoid disrupting his campaign. But nothing happened until the rst pre-season test in February. So negotiations could continue throughout 2015.
Talks will not be plain sailing. Hamilton has just taken a dominant world title win and knows that his global impact for Mercedes’ brand far outstrips that which any other driver could provide, with only Alonso coming close.
On those grounds, he could ask for a pay rise to take him above the $31m salary, plus bonuses, he has been receiving. Mercedes, meanwhile, are keen to keep costs down and will want to keep the money the same, if not reduce it a bit.
At the same time, having split with XIX Entertainment, Hamilton is handling the talks himself, a prospect he describes as a “huge challenge”, while adding that he is “Thirty now. I am my own man, I know my worth”.
Then there is the matter of whether Alonso really is locked in at McLaren. If the team struggle, will he be able to resist the chance to drive a Mercedes assuming it is still on winning form? Alonso earns $40m a year with McLaren, but it’s claimed he would have signed with Mercedes for half of that last autumn.
Wolff, then, has a strong negotiating position. If Hamilton has too many demands, Wolff can make an offer and say “Take it or leave it – and if you leave it, Alonso will sign for $20m.” But if Hamilton nds himself on the way to another title, might he fancy a new challenge? Perhaps at Ferrari, where Kimi Räikkönen will be out of contract? This could prove interesting.
Might Hamilton turn his back on Mercedes if they won’t agree to his salary demands?