SILVERSTONE, England (Reuters) - Lewis Hamilton could race on with Mercedes for the next five years if team boss Toto Wolff has his way.
The four-times Formula One champion is poised to sign a lucrative new deal with the team, expected to take the Briton up to the end of 2020, but Wolff saw no reason why that should be the limit.
“In my opinion, he is 33 years old now and I think he has another five very good years in him. That is what the statistics say,” the Austrian told reporters over lunch at the British Grand Prix.
Asked whether he would like that to be with Mercedes, Wolff answered in the affirmative.
“I am open-minded,” he said. “If in two years time we still feel the same about each other, have trust, I think it will be clear that we continue.”
Formula One’s current deals with teams expire at the end of 2020, meaning most contracts — including that of Ferrari rival Sebastian Vettel — run only until then given the uncertainty beyond that point.
Hamilton is out of contract at the end of this season and the new one, according to media estimates, could be worth as much as 40 million pounds ($53.1 million) a year for the hottest property in the sport.
Wolff said the deal had yet to be signed and there would be no announcement this weekend. Money is not seen as an issue, other than in the details over personal sponsorship and image rights.
The Briton’s commitment to the sport remains uncertain, however, with his interests in fashion and music increasingly coming into focus.
Hamilton has designed a collection for Tommy Hilfiger, now a team sponsor, and it is now an open secret that he contributed to a track on U.S. singer Christina Aguilera’s latest album.
Wolff said he had been impressed by his driver’s creativity, but also recognised he could just decide to quit — as former team mate Nico Rosberg did after winning the 2016 world championship.
“I think probably all of us are a little bit similar...we all could walk away from what we do today,” said the team principal, whose driver has won the last four races at Silverstone.
“And that’s why I think he’s reflecting about that: ‘I love it, but what happens when one day I wake up and don’t love it any more? When would that be? when could that be? when would I walk away?”
Wolff described Hamilton as the “superstar in the car” and batted aside a suggestion that he could also be high maintenance.
“Exceptional individuals, you just have to accept that they have opinions — strong opinions and views and strong drive,” he said.
“That determination to win and that ambition in a situation is not an easy character trait to deal with. But it is just what we want in the team. The super nice, polite guy is not what we want,” he added.
“We want the guy that scores the tries and wins the trophies so I embrace high maintenance.”($1 = 0.7540 pounds)
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ed Osmond