Formula One champion Hamilton signs 2-year extension with Mercedes

Spielberg: Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton will stay with Mercedes through the 2023 season after signing a two-year contract extension, the team said today.

The seven-time champion is currently in his ninth season with Mercedes.

``It is hard to believe it’s been nearly nine years working with this incredible team and I’m excited we’re going to continue our partnership for two more years,’’ Hamilton said. ``We’ve accomplished so much together but we still have a lot to achieve, both on and off the track.’’

An eighth championship would move Hamilton ahead of Michael Schumacher on the all-time list. Hamilton currently trails Red Bull’s Max Verstappen by 18 points after eight races. Verstappen leads him 4-3 in wins and 3-2 in pole positions.

Team principal Toto Wolff said this season’s tight race for the title prompted them to get the contract done.

``We are relishing the battle we have on our hands this year _ and that’s why we also wanted to agree this contract early, so we have no distractions from the competition on track,’’ Wolff said. “I have always said that as long as Lewis still possesses the fire for racing, he can continue as long as he wants.’’

The deal was announced ahead of qualifying for the Austrian Grand Prix, and was quickly welcomed by F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali.

More to come

``I am delighted that Lewis will stay in F1 for at least another two years,’’ Domenicali said. ``What he has achieved in this sport is incredible and I know he has more to come. He is a global superstar on and off the race track and his positive impact on Formula 1 is huge.’’

The 36-year-old Hamilton joined Mercedes in 2013 from McLaren, where he won his first title in 2007. Many observers predicted that it was a risky move, such was Red Bull’s dominance at the time.

Red Bull had just won its fourth straight driver’s and constructor’s titles with Sebastian Vettel at the wheel, and Hamilton won only one race in his first season with Mercedes.

But a switch to hybrid engines turned F1 on its head, and Hamilton has won every title with Mercedes since 2014 with the exception of 2016, when his then-teammate Nico Rosberg clinched the title and retired.

Later Saturday, Hamilton will go for a record-extending 101st F1 pole and a record-extending 99th win on Sunday.

If Hamilton retires at the end of 2023, he will be 38 and could potentially stand alone as F1’s greatest ever driver.

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