Lewis Hamilton thanks Mercedes for patience after finally signing new deal
But was it Ferrari or Red Bull who approached Hamilton?
By Pete Gill and James Galloway at Hockenheim
Last Updated: 10/12/18 8:34am
Lewis Hamilton has described the length of his two-year contract extension with Mercedes as "strategic" and thanked team boss Toto Wolff for his patience as talks dragged out.
Hamilton has also revealed another leading team - either Red Bull or Ferrari - approached him as he dithered over signing a new deal with the world champions.
After months of negotiations stretching back to the start of the year, Hamilton's new deal - believed to be worth £40m a year, making Hamilton the highest-paid British sportsman - was signed this week and announced on Thursday ahead of this weekend's German GP.
"I really appreciate Toto being so patient with me because l am not the easiest," said Hamilton. "Most people wouldn't have given the timeframe l chose to take.
"But it shows the trust we have between each other."
According to Hamilton, it was that trust which then caused the talks to drag out - or, more accurately, to be on hold - with the driver assuring the team he was not interested in moving elsewhere and the team content to wait for their prized asset to re-commit.
But asked whether Red Bull or Ferrari made contact as Hamilton and Mercedes continued to check the small print on his new deal, the 33-year-old confirmed:
"One did but I didn't give it any air."
Hamilton declined to elaborate further or clarify whether the team in question was Red Bull or Ferrari.
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Hamilton waits on F1's future
Hamilton's two-year extension sees the Mercedes driver mirror the commitment title rival Sebastian Vettel has made to Ferrari and Max Verstappen at Red Bull.
With the sport's look and feel for 2021 and beyond yet to be agreed or defined, almost all of the deals around F1 current run to the end of 2020 and Hamilton admitted he was reluctant to commit further.
"We were talking about doing a three [-year deal] but Formula 1's shapes are shifting and F1 is not committed to all the teams moving forward beyond 2021 and l am interested to see how that all plays out," he said.
"It didn't make sense to commit into the unknown. Commercially everything could change, and you don't want to put yourself in a corner, so it was a strategic decision by myself."
Speaking of his pride at being part of the 'Mercedes family', Hamilton continued: "I am really happy with the process, I enjoyed the negotiation.
"I wasn't expecting to be as excited as l am signing this extension and I am conscious of how very long it is in retirement. There are so many great reasons to stay a part of this sport.
"But who knows, in two years' time maybe my life will be completely different and l will want completely different things."
Hamilton explains contract process
Given his existing Mercedes deal does not expire until December, Hamilton said he did not feel the need to rush through the 2019-20 negotiations with Wolff.
Nonetheless, he revealed the bulk of the new deal had already been agreed for several months.
"I just like to take my time with a lot of things," explained Hamilton. "It's such a big decision, it's not something you can do over a couple of weeks. Well, you could, but ultimately when you make a decision you're then 'oh, shoot, I should have thought about that and should have thought about that'.
"But anyway my negotiation, it was the longest I'd eked it out before, but it wasn't like we were talking every week during that whole period of time. We started to have the discussion at the beginning of the year, then we spoke about it a few months later, then we spoke about it for a couple of days and then I put it off…I was like, 'this is too stressful. Then I'll revisit it past I got three races… I just kept delaying it.
"I had a contract in place, so I didn't feel like I had to rush. I was like I will do it when I'm ready and we're ready.
"Eventually then we sat down at home and got through it real, real quick, me and Toto. The lawyers make things always a lot longer than they needs to be, but me and Toto rushed through things real quick.
Asked when that meeting took place, Hamilton said: "I can't remember the actual date. It might have been before or after Monaco."