By Abhishek Takle
MANAMA (Reuters) – Four-times world champion Lewis Hamilton says he is waiting for Formula One’s owners to unveil their plans for the future before putting pen to paper on a fresh contract with Mercedes.
The Briton is out of contract at the end of the year and speculation surrounding his future has been bubbling away for months.
Reports in the German media in the build-up to this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix quoted team boss Toto Wolff as saying an extension was as good as done.
Speaking to reporters at the Sakhir circuit on Thursday, Hamilton said there was still no rush to wrap up a new deal, however.
“It’s quite an interesting time for Formula One,” he said. “You’ve got tomorrow’s announcement or discussions of what’s happening in Formula One moving forwards.
“That could or could not have an impact on the decisions you make in terms of length or whatever it is you end up doing.”
Liberty Media, who took over as Formula One’s commercial rights holders in January last year, are meeting teams on Friday to present their plans for the sport beyond 2020.
New engine regulations, changes to the cars to make it easier for drivers to overtake, a more equitable distribution of prize money and some form of cost control are expected to be discussed.
Current agreements governing the financial and regulatory structure of the sport are set to expire in 2020 and Hamilton’s comments suggest he could be considering staying on until at least 2021.
“The next contract is probably the most important one in my career,” said the 33-year-old, who made his debut with McLaren in 2007 and moved to Mercedes in 2013.
“So the length, your decision to how long you want to commit to being in Formula One, it’s becoming more and more important moving forwards for me, being that I’m at the latter end of my career.”
Mercedes are currently only committed to the sport until 2020.
When asked if he was hinting that he could walk away if he didn’t like Liberty Media’s plans, Hamilton denied the suggestion.
“I wasn’t hinting at anything,” said the winner of three of the last four championships.
“It’s going to be interesting to see what is happening in Formula One as I am an integral part of it so it’ll be great to know how it all sits for us. And it’s actually come at a very good time because I still haven’t put pen to paper.”
(Editing by Alan Baldwin and Pritha Sarkar)