The McLaren Mercedes Formula One team today announced it has extended through 2012 the contract of driver Lewis Hamilton, who turned 23 less than two weeks ago. The deal, negotiated with Hamilton's manager, his father Anthony Hamilton, extends the driver's association with the team to 15 years.
Hamilton began racing karts at age eight and joined the McLaren and Mercedes Young Driver Support program 10 years ago.
"Following our initial Formula One agreement with Lewis, which we announced in November 2006, he went on to exceed all expectations for a rookie in Formula One, even those of us in the team who have known him for over a decade," team principal Ron Dennis said.
"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."
Hamilton's rookie F1 season astounded the sport for its number of victories (four), pole positions (six), podium appearances (12, nine of them consecutive), points scored (109), and driver's title race lead, lost only at the final race to Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen and then by a single point.
Hamilton's accomplishments were countered by an acrimonious relationship with then teammate double World Champion Fernando Alonso and by an industrial spying scandal that saw the team fined $100 million, later halved, and stripped of constructors' points.
Financial terms were not released but the Daily Mail reported last fall that Hamilton's base salary was 340,000 pounds a year (about $663,000 at today's rate of the dollar at $1.95 per pound), augmented by a bonus reported to be 7,000 pounds ($13,650) per point scored, which would have bagged him a further $1.48 million. HarperCollins paid him a book advance in seven figures, reported to be 1.5 million pounds ($2.9 million).
The Daily Mail and BBC Sport reported his earnings are expected to reach or exceed 10 million pounds this season, the BBC calculating an amount of 200,000 pounds ($390,000) a week. Further estimates speculate he could earn 100 million pounds through his career. Little wonder he moved to tax haven Switzerland in the offseason.
"It's fantastic for me that Vodafone McLaren Mercedes has extended my contract until 2012," Hamilton said. "Whilst last year was my first year with the team in Formula One, 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 One career. I am with the right team to compete for race wins and both the driver's and constructor's world championships in the future."
Norbert Haug, vice president of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport, called Hamilton's public representation of the company "first class".
McLaren CEO Martin Whitmarsh indicated presentation of the MP4-23 on January 9th, Hamilton's birthday, was also when the team approached Anthony Hamilton about extending Lewis's contract.
"This was certainly not a discussion that was under any particular time frame as our previous contract with Lewis was ongoing," Whitmarsh said.
Hamilton's teammate this season is Finnish racer Heikki Kovalainen, who spent his rookie season last year at Renault.