Mercedes hint Lewis Hamilton is close to signing new contract

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Lewis Hamilton‘s long-running contract saga looks set to come to an end after Mercedes hinted a new deal for the British driver might be imminent.

The team put a photo on social media of a contract waiting to be signed, alongside the word “#Announce…”

The 33-year-old joined Mercedes from McLaren for the 2013 season and has won three of the past four World Championships.

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Lewis Hamilton leaps to Mercedes team's defence after Austrian GP blunder

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Lewis Hamilton has launched a staunch defence of his Mercedes team – but could not rule out further blunders costing him the title.

Hamilton will head into his home race at Silverstone on Sunday one point behind Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel following a calamitous race for his team last time out in Austria.

Mercedes’ chief strategist James Vowles is in the spotlight after his strategy blunder – the team’s third in nine races this season – and his very public apology to Hamilton over the team radio.

Hamilton, who is bidding to become the first driver to win six British Grands Prix, and the first to win five in a row, insists it is not only his Mercedes team faltering this season, and backed his team to turn it around.

But the 33-year-old Englishman also hinted that Mercedes can ill-afford further errors in his quest for a fifth world championship.

“I hope (the mistakes) will not be a title decider, but I can’t predict what will happen going forward,” Hamilton said.

“There are a lot of tough calls for teams to make, but some of them, for sure, are easier than others.

“I do feel like I have the best strategy team behind me. Look at how many wins I have had at this team.

“We have had far more success than we have had failures, and nobody is perfect. It would be boring if that was the case.”

Hamilton was awarded three days off by Mercedes after the Austrian race, and spent the time preparing for Sunday’s third race in as many weeks at his home in Monaco.

The Briton insists that the team’s capitulation at Spielberg will act as a catalyst in his championship battle, rather than a hindrance.

“I look at what happened in Austria as a positive and it reminds me how passionate I am,” Hamilton added.

“We win and lose as a team and what’s happened has reunited us. The will to win is still there, and there are fixes for everything.

“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and the spirit is stronger than it has ever been.”

Hamilton’s new £40million-a-year contract extension is not expected to be announced this week, with Mercedes wary of placing further pressure on their star man ahead of his home race.

Hamilton will start as the favourite to win in front of nearly 140,000 partisan British fans following his recent domination at Silverstone.

“It would be great (to retake the championship lead),” Hamilton said. “Coming into this weekend there has been talk of a historic win, but if I am honest it has just been an incredible journey since my debut in 2007.

“I am really grateful to be in a position to fight for a sixth win at Silverstone. Not many drivers get to do that and I am privileged to be in that position. The support here is unlike anywhere else.”

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Lewis Hamilton could sign new Mercedes contract before British Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton‘s long-running contract saga could be concluded before next week’s British Grand Prix.

Hamilton, 33, is in the final year of his Mercedes deal, but after months of negotiations the Brit’s extension – which will rubber-stamp his future with Mercedes for at least another two seasons – is on the brink of being announced.

In what could be his last contract in Formula One, Hamilton is poised to earn £40million-a-year to cement his status as this country’s biggest sporting earner.

It is understood Mercedes do not have a formal timeline in place to announce Hamilton’s new deal.

However, team boss Toto Wolff hinted after the French Grand Prix – a race which was attended by Mercedes chairman Dr Dieter Zetsche – that a conclusion may finally on the horizon.

“We don’t want to drag it out much longer,” Wolff said. “I expect it to be done very, very soon.” The Austrian cryptically added: “Maybe it is about choosing the right moment.”

Mercedes wanted Hamilton’s future to be resolved before March’s opening race in Australia, but they will head towards the midway stage of the season with two vacant seats for 2019.

Hamilton, however, is seemingly certain to stay, and it is likely he will be partnered by Valtteri Bottas for a third year with Mercedes content that the inoffensive Finn is doing enough to retain his seat.

Bottas is fourth in the standings, 53 points adrift of Hamilton.

Daniel Ricciardo, a two-time winner this season, is out of contract with Red Bull, but Mercedes do not appear interested in making a move for the Australian.

Hamilton meanwhile, is back in charge of the championship after his impressive victory on Sunday.

The Englishman led all but one lap at the Paul Ricard Circuit to move 14 points clear of Sebastian Vettel, who finished only fifth after his collision with Bottas.

The championship pendulum has swung back and forth between Mercedes and Ferrari, but it is Hamilton who now holds the momentum with four races to come in five weeks.

Toto Wolff walks in the Paddock

“It can swing so quickly,” Wolff continued. “A DNF (for Hamilton) and the other guy (Vettel) winning means it swings back in the other direction so I don’t expect this result will change much. That is going to be the story of the season.”

A Mercedes driver has won in Spielberg for each of the past four years, and Hamilton added: “Austria should be a fairly decent track as it’s been good for us in the past. I don’t see why it should be any different now.

“The car should be good there. I think the Red Bulls have been quick there in the past because it’s quite a good downforce circuit, so it’ll be interesting.”

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