Hamilton will head into Sunday’s German Grand Prix eight points adrift in the championship standings following the Ferrari driver’s win at Silverstone a fortnight ago.
Vettel celebrated his victory by roaring in Italian over the Ferrari radio: “We are leaving with the British flag to hang at (Ferrari’s headquarters in) Maranello. We have won here at their home.”
Ferrari stoked the rivalry further by headlining their triumphant post-race press release with an ironic play on words. “A hammer blow,” they wrote.
Mercedes’ Formula One operation is based only a stone’s throw from Silverstone, while Hamilton’s comeback drive from last to second – after he was punted off at the first corner by Vettel’s Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen – was cheered on by 140,000 British fans.
Responding to Vettel’s radio message, Hamilton said: “I heard something was said, but I see that as an act of weakness. It doesn’t affect me whatsoever. Good for him.
“We will keep our heads down, keep quiet, and focus on doing a better job across the board. That is our approach right now.
“I hope that when we do a good job this weekend, we won’t respond by saying, ‘oh, we did it at his home ground’. That is not necessary.”
Hamilton’s own conscience wasn’t exactly clear in the moments after his defeat at Silverstone. He snubbed an interview with broadcaster Martin Brundle before accusing Ferrari of dirty play.
Hamilton’s wild theory was that Ferrari had hatched a plan to wipe him out of contention by ordering Raikkonen to bang into him on purpose.
A day later, Hamilton admitted he got it wrong, and said sorry to Raikkonen in a series of apologetic posts to his 6.7million Instagram followers.
“Obviously it was silly to say,” Vettel said as he reflected on Hamilton’s accusation. “We are racing and we have all been there. It is never great if you get hit when you have done nothing wrong. It’s two weeks ago. We move on.”
Hamilton and Mercedes moved on by ending the 33-year-old Briton’s long-running contract saga by ensuing his future on the grid for at least another two seasons.
He will be rewarded with an eye-watering £80million, and will once again be partnered by Valtteri Bottas after Mercedes resisted the temptation of signing Daniel Ricciardo from Red Bull.
The scars of three years of toxic in-fighting between Hamilton and Nico Rosberg remain too raw, while Bottas has proved an able understudy.
“I am sure for the team there were questions and discussions at lunch,” Hamilton continued. “‘Is he staying? Is he not staying?’ So, now this has been announced it has stopped all of that, and we can now embark on a strong future together.
“I now can put every bit of energy and every bit of thought into this championship. There are no questions lingering around so for the team that is a positive, and we need all the positive energy we can get to fight.
“We’ve not won enough races this year and, at times, we’ve definitely stumbled. A small stumble this year is magnified because it’s so close but I’m super-focused on making sure we get everything and more out of the car, and myself, so we can win this weekend.”
Hamilton finished second in both practice sessions on Friday with Ricciardo, and latterly Max Verstappen, leading the way for Red Bull. Vettel was fourth fastest.
Here, Press Association Sport takes a look at some of the other British and Irish stars to feature on 2018 Forbes list of the 100 top earners from around the world.
Conor McGregor – £77.5millon (99million US Dollars)
The Mixed Martial Arts fighter from Dublin sits at number four in the Forbes list, which is headed by boxer Floyd Mayweather.
It was his lucrative Las Vegas bout against the American which helped swell the earnings of UFC star, who banked an estimated 85m US Dollars (£66.5m) for the contest.
Although he was defeated, McGregor signed several sponsorship deals around the showdown, from Burger King and Beats by Dre. The 30-year-old Irishman also generates additional revenue from digital ventures such as Conor McGregor‘s FAST extreme performance training plan.
Anthony Joshua – £30.5million (39million US Dollars)
The second-highest earning British sportstar behind Hamilton, who sits 12th with £40m (51m US Dollars), heavyweight boxer Joshua enjoyed a successful, and lucrative, year. His victory over Joseph Parker saw almost 1.5m pay-per-view purchases, with a crowd of some 78,000 packed into Cardiff’s Principality Stadium.
The 28-year-old, who won gold at the 2012 London Olympics, is signed up with sponsors such as Under Armour, Jaguar and Lucozade Sport.
In the ring, Joshua can expect another bumper payday from his upcoming fight against Alexander Povetkin at Wembley – with potential money-spinning showdown against WBC champion Deontay Wilder also on the horizon.
Rory McIlroy – £29.5million (37.7million US Dollars)
Golfer McIlroy saw his progress last year hampered by injuries, but continued to be in demand for sponsorship deals, signing a 10-year extension with Nike and a long-term tie-up with TaylorMade – which, according to Forbes, brought in more than his tournament earnings.
McIlroy’s form improved over the early part of 2018, claiming the Arnold Palmer Invitational title in March and then tied fifth at The Masters.
However, the Northern Ireland golfer, 29, went on to miss the cut at both The Players Championship and the US Open, where he carded a first-round of 80.
Gareth Bale – £27million (34.6million US Dollars)
Wales forward Bale, who scored twice as Real Madrid beat Liverpool to win the 2018 Champions League final, has a lucrative contract – reported to be worth some £26m – with the Spanish giants, which is set to run until June 2022.
Bale also has a long-term sponsorship deal with Adidas.
As Wales were not at the World Cup, he also took part in a light-hearted summer advertising campaign for on-line shopping.
Wayne Rooney – £21million (27million US Dollars)
Veteran striker Rooney found himself at 58 in the Forbes list, remaining one of the top-10 highest-earning football players for the 11th year running.
After returning to boyhood club Everton from Manchester United in July 2017, the 32-year-old recently completed a move to Major Soccer League franchise DC United – which is said to be worth some £300,000-a-week as part of a three-year deal.
Rooney has a long-term boot sponsorship deal with Nike.
Although Mercedes did not reveal specifics of Hamilton’s contract extension it is understood that the four-time world champion will earn up to £40million a year until the end of 2020.
The 33-year-old Englishman’s new contract cements his status as Britain’s biggest sporting earner as well as the best-paid driver in Formula One history.
Mercedes’ announcement comes ahead of the team’s home race in Germany with Hamilton trailing Sebastian Vettel in the championship by eight points.
Hamilton said: “This contract extension has basically been a formality since (team principal) Toto (Wolff) and I sat down during the winter, so it’s good to put pen to paper, announce it and then get on with business as usual.
“I have been part of the Mercedes racing family for 20 years and I have never been happier inside a team than I am right now.
“We are on the same wavelength both on and off track – and I am looking forward to winning more in the future and shining even more light on the three-pointed star. I’m very confident that Mercedes is the right place to be over the coming years.”
Hamilton will be nearing his 36th birthday at the conclusion of his latest contract, and he has made no secret of his desire to forge a career in fashion or music.
I have been in the Mercedes Family since 1998. I am forever grateful for their continued support, love and protection over these years. I’m incredibly proud of what we have achieved together and even more excited for the future!👊🏾 @MercedesAMGF1 #grateful #letsgo #announcelewis pic.twitter.com/sXo0UnKeIs
— Lewis Hamilton (@LewisHamilton) July 19, 2018
But the Englishman’s immediate future remains in a sport that has helped transform him from modest beginnings in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, into a global multi-million-pound superstar.
Hamilton is chasing his fifth world crown this season to join Michael Schumacher and Juan Manuel Fangio as the only other driver to have won more than four titles.
He is second to Schumacher, in terms of grands prix wins, and holds the record for the most pole positions in the history of the sport.
Wolff said: “We signed the final documents this week and didn’t want to keep people waiting any longer!
“There is not much about Lewis as a Formula One driver that hasn’t been said already – he is one of the all-time greats and his track record speaks for itself.
“But what I enjoy most about working with him is getting to know the man inside the racing helmet: his relentless drive for self-improvement, his emotional intelligence as a team member and his loyalty to those around him.”
Hamilton’s decision to stay with Mercedes is set to have a domino effect on the driver market for 2019.
It is likely that Hamilton will be partnered by Valtteri Bottas for a third year with Mercedes content that the Finn is doing enough to retain his seat.
Bottas is fifth in the standings, 59 points adrift of Hamilton, but his campaign has been blighted by bad luck.
Daniel Ricciardo, a two-time winner this season, is out of contract with Red Bull, but Mercedes do not appear to want to risk rocking their stable ship.
Vettel is due to stay at Ferrari for a further two years. The identity of his team-mate next season, however, is uncertain with highly-rated rookie Charles Leclerc mooted to replace Kimi Raikkonen.