Hamilton speculation rife as McLaren ups offer
McLaren has upped its offer to Lewis Hamilton in an attempt to dissuade him signing a deal with Mercedes for 2013, according to several British newspapers.
The Guardian and the Daily Mail report that McLaren have offered an extra £2 million a year on top of their original offer of £10 million in order to counter the offer from Mercedes, which the Times believes stands at £10.5 million. Both deals fall short of Hamilton's current contract with McLaren, but the Mercedes option would allow Hamilton to chase lucrative personal sponsors, which McLaren limits in order to prevent conflicts with its commercial partners.
McLaren is said to be confident Hamilton will sign soon, but when asked if a deal could be done this week, team principal Martin Whitmarsh said: "We will see what we can do. I am not going to make any predictions." F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone believes Hamilton is currently weighing up the two offers, but told ESPNF1 that the driver had been planning to leave McLaren earlier in the year.
"I don't think Hamilton knows what he will do," Ecclestone said. "These last couple or three races he has been doing very well. Before that, why he was upset I don't know, but he was definitely going to move no matter what. He had made up his mind that he was going. Whether he has changed now a little bit I don't know."
According to the Times, questions over Mercedes' commitment to Formula One could be a stumbling block for negotiations, with the team yet to confirm it has agreed to a new deal with the sport's commercial rights holder. In Singapore there were rumours Mercedes had signed a new Concorde Agreement, which would commit the German manufacturer to the sport until 2020, but motorsport boss Norbert Haug said nothing had been finalised.
"We all have to accept that there are rumours, but as soon as everything is finalised we will tell you. We are not slowing down the process, we've had a very constructive process and that's all I can say. It's going definitely in the right direction."
The Daily Telegraph reports that ex-triple world champion Niki Lauda "has apparently been instrumental in [Mercedes] overtures, selling Hamilton a vision of a 'super-team'." But in an interview with Formula One's official website, Lauda said he did not expect any big name changes among the top teams.
"I don't see any mouth-watering switch being made," he said. "Hamilton will stay with McLaren."
Although he added: "That is what I say today. Without knowing what I am talking about!"