Lewis Hamilton's intended move to Switzerland made even more sense yesterday when his Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team confirmed that they have extended his driving contract for a further five years. The new agreement, which starts for 2008, will run up to and including the 2012 season.
No figures were revealed, but the deal is believed to be worth $138m (£70m), giving Hamilton a level of income not dissimilar to the retired Michael Schumacher in his heyday, even though the 23 year-old is only going into his second season of Formula One.
"Following our initial Formula One agreement with Lewis, which we announced in November 2006, he went on to exceed all expectations for a rookie, even those of us in the team who have known him for over a decade," McLaren Group CEO and chairman Ron Dennis said.
"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 motor sport. This is a great achievement for everyone involved."
Hamilton, who has been widely criticised for his planned relocation to Switzerland even though it was precisely what Jackie Stewart did at the same stage of his career, said: "I 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 Drivers' and Constructors' World Championships. We will have a lot of challenges ahead, but I am 100 per cent positive I am with the people to take them on." Hamilton continued, "The first of those challenges is the 2008 season. I am enjoying working closely with 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."