McLaren revealed on Friday that Lewis Hamilton has extended the contract with the team, which will see him at McLaren until the end of the 2012 season. The deal had been rumoured since the start of the year, with its value estimated at an impressive $138m.
Hamilton joined the team as a rookie in 2007, after winning the GP2 series the previous year, before blowing expectations of him out the window, by finishing second in the championship. After earning just $700,000 as his basic salary in 2007, Lewis's salary has been rumoured to rise to $17m as part of the new deal. An extra $6m will be added to that if he secures McLaren's first title in almost a decade.
With Heikki Kovalainen also on a multi-year contract with McLaren, it's now more than likely that the Woking-based side will continue with the same driver pairing at least into the next decade. For test driver Pedro de la Rosa, it could signal the beginning of the end for his tenure at the team, as he continues to seek a race seat in Formula One.
Ron Dennis, McLaren Group (CEO AND Chairman):
“We are pleased to announce that we have extended our contract with Lewis, which will now run for a further five years until 2012. Following our initial Formula 1 agreement with Lewis, which we announced in November 2006, he went on to exceed all expectations for a rookie in Formula 1, even those of us in the team who have known him for over a decade. Given Lewis's performances over the course of the 2007 season, it is clear that improved financial terms were fully deserved and this formed part of the friendly negotiations with Lewis's manager Anthony Hamilton.
“Today's announcement will take the length of our relationship with Lewis to a total of 15 years, which we believe is among the longest running associations between a sportsman and a team in the history of sport, particularly motorsport. This is a great achievement for everyone involved, including Anthony. Lewis is an exceptional human being, on both a personal and professional level, and will continue to be a credit to this team. Vodafone McLaren Mercedes is looking forward to the new season, and we all expect that, with Heikki coming on board to partner Lewis, we will have a very competitive year.”
“It's fantastic for me that Vodafone McLaren Mercedes has extended my contract until 2012. Whilst last year was my first year with the team in Formula 1, I have been connected to McLaren and Mercedes-Benz since 1998 and feel that I could easily drive for this team for the whole of my Formula 1 career. I am with the right team to compete for race wins and both the Drivers' and Constructors' World Championships in the future. We will have a lot of challenges ahead, but I am 100% positive I am with the people to take them on. The first of those challenges is the 2008 season. I am enjoying working closely with Heikki, Pedro, Gary and the team as we push hard with the development of the MP4-23. We have 57 days to go until the lights go out on the grid at Albert Park and we are motivated to make the most of this time and arrive in Melbourne with a competitive car.”
Martin Whitmarsh, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes (CEO Formula 1):
“Since the end of the 2007 season, during which Lewis broke every rookie record standing, the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team has been focused on getting our 2008 challenger on track. That was successfully achieved on Wednesday 9th January and led to an appropriate time for the team to hold discussions with Lewis's manager, Anthony. This was certainly not a discussion that was under any particular timeframe as our previous contract with Lewis was ongoing. Since Heikki joined the team in December, it has become more apparent how well he and Lewis will work together to become a competitive force for the team. We feel confident we have the prospect of another exciting season ahead.”
Norbert Haug, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport (Vice President):
“Lewis proved his exceptional skills in his rookie season last year by finishing as runner-up one point behind the World Champion with four victories and six pole positions in 17 races. It is well known that McLaren, Mercedes-Benz and Lewis have worked together already for 10 years. He was still a boy when he started in the MBM karting team. Lewis's performance and successes last year and the way he represents the team and our company Mercedes-Benz in the public are first class. His father Anthony and Lewis's family play an important part in his development. Together we have now created a long term base for a successful collaboration in Formula One and everybody inside the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team will work very hard and concentrated to achieve our goals.”