Brazilian GP: Lewis Hamilton to negotiate new F1 contract

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Lewis Hamilton wants to continue in Formula 1 – but will take his time over finalising a new contract.

The Briton driver, who clinched his sixth world title at the US Grand Prix, is almost certain to stay at Mercedes.

“When you’ve been with a team for so long, we are kind of joined at the hip,” the 34-year-old said. “All that detail can take its time.

“But you need to set some time aside to say ‘where are we, what’s the next goal, what else are we planning?'”

Hamilton, who was speaking before this weekend’s Brazilian Grand Prix, said one of the issues on which he will be looking for an answer will be the future of team boss Toto Wolff, who has been linked in some quarters with a potential move to running Formula 1.

“It’s a difficult one because I know being stuck in one position for too long can not always be a positive so I always want people to spread their wings and do what is best for their careers. Only he knows what that is,” Hamilton said.

“But as a business you need to have the right people in place and he has been the right person – it has been the perfect match.

“So I don’t particularly want him to leave if I’m staying in the sport but ultimately that’s going to be his choice.

“This team is not one person. It’s a huge group of people. But it is important to me and I am waiting to see where his head is at. The sport could also be in a good place with someone like him running it but I don’t know if that’s more of a fun experience.”

Hamilton said he was not especially looking forward to the negotiations because “it is just confrontation, isn’t it?”

He added: “It’s almost like I only just did this contract and I already have to start talking about the potential of the next one.

“It won’t be really stressful but it’s daunting when you think about it coming up, also because you are committing to a period of time and it’s sometimes hard to think that far ahead but of course it’s nice to be wanted and hopefully soon we’ll get that sorted.”

Wolff is not in Brazil for this weekend’s race, missing a grand prix for the first time since he took over as Mercedes motorsport boss in 2013 as he stays in Europe attending to other issues.

Hamilton said: “I texted him and said ‘you’ve built an incredible team here and we’re going to do you proud’.

“Nothing really changes for us within the team. he will be missed on the pit wall and his input through the weekend will be missed but we are still here to do a job and our focus doesn’t shift. He’ll still be watching so you can still get in trouble from the headmaster.”

Focus on Ferrari

Hamilton is determined to end the season on a high, saying he wants to win the final two grands prix in Brazil on Sunday and Abu Dhabi on 1 December.

Ferrari will be the centre of attention in some ways following their poor performance at the last race in Austin.

That followed a rules clarification from governing body the FIA, underlining ways in which interfering with the running of the engine’s hybrid system would be illegal.

The ruling came in answer to an enquiry from Red Bull, who had asked about potential ways of interfering with the mandatory fuel-flow meter that could lead it to exceed the maximum permitted fuel flow.

Ferrari team boss Mattia Binotto said in Austin that the ruling had not affected them, but there has been another clarification before the race in Sao Paulo, this time emphasising that it would be illegal for teams to introduce lubricants into the engine which could have the side-effect of boosting power.

Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel said the team “did not fully understand” why they were off the pace in the US, but added: “I am pretty confident we can be back to our normal form here.”

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Asked if that would silence the suspicion, Vettel said: “We have had Mercedes having the best engine for five years and if it is now for a couple of months we are ahead, hopefully it stays like that for another five years and I don’t care what people think or say.”

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen said in Austin that he believed Ferrari’s dip in form was directly related to the first clarification.

But Vettel said: “Everybody is free to say what they want. I don’t think anybody in the team took it personal. It is not professional and not mature.

“We are not proud of how we performed in Austin on Sunday. After Saturday, no-one had the need to complain. Sunday, we struggled with more than one thing – conditions, tyres, set-up, which are things we need to work on. But live and let live. If that’s what he thinks, that’s what he thinks, but in the end we don’t care so much.”

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari’s lead driver in the championship, has a 10-place grid penalty in Brazil as a result of fitting a new engine following a failure in practice in the US, which required him to use a previous-specification engine in the race.

He said: “I personally don’t have any motivation to prove them wrong. We all know what we are doing. We know there is absolutely nothing wrong. And I feel confident things will come back to normal here.

“In Austin, there were a few things did not go our way – and the change of engine to the older spec on my side was not ideal and for the race we saw that and that is why we changed the engine to the newer spec. But no extra motivation to prove them wrong.”

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