Formula 1

Mercedes expect new Lewis Hamilton deal to be done within weeks

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Mercedes are expecting Lewis Hamilton to reaffirm his commitment to the team before next month's Australian Grand Prix.

The world champion has yet to sign an extension to his original three-year contract, which expires at the end of this year, and several changes in the Briton's personal life could be proving a distraction.

Hamilton split from his management group XIX Entertainment last year, with the 30-year-old now negotiating his new deal with Mercedes chiefs himself. Last week it was announced he and girlfriend Nicole Scherzinger had parted ways once again.

A story that rumbles on

Speculation has suggested Hamilton will sign a new deal worth around £60 million over three years, but it would come after he ended contract discussions last October until the end of season.

The sub-plot in the Hamilton/Mercedes contract talks was the open acknowledgement by Fernando Alonso that he was interested in only having a one-year contract with the Woking team so that, should Hamilton decide to leave, the Spaniard would be available to take his seat.

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However, McLaren boss Ron Dennis is now keen to emphasise that Alonso is tied down to a two-year deal with the team, squashing those claims that he could jump ship again like he did after 2007 should the new McLaren/Honda tie-up failed to live up to hype.

A deal by Melbourne?

Mercedes commercial chief Toto Wolff, however, remains confident that the talks with Hamilton will come to a successful conclusion, ensuring the Hamilton/Rosberg partnership continues into 2016 and beyond.

"It is always beneficial you have a clear situation, for the driver and ourselves," the Austrian told Sky Sports.

"That is the best case, but you want to get it right as well, so it needs time.

"There is no reason for us to believe it is not going to go in the way we think is right, and Lewis thinks is right.

"There is no reason for us to believe it is not going to go in the way we think is right, and Lewis thinks is right

"Therefore we should aim to finish the discussions before the start of the season."

No deal deadline

Despite setting that aim, however, Wolff insists that there is no deadline for when any prospective new deal has to be completed by.

"This is not a deadline we have set ourselves because the moment you set deadlines you put yourself under pressure, and we don't want to put him or us under pressure," he claimed.

"Contract discussions are extremely important, both for Lewis and ourselves. It's about discussing how the next couple of years are going to go.

"This is not something that happens from one day to the other, and you cannot expect it to be easy.

"But because of the great relationship we enjoy with Lewis and the very transparent way we deal with each other, so far it has been very good."

Hamilton remains Merc's man of choice

Wolff concluded that Mercedes and Hamilton are both very open about the future direction each party wants to take and that at least on his side, the Briton remains the right man for the team going forward.

"He is an intelligent driver, has developed as a personality - I hope we have played our part - and so far the discussions have been as expected."

No deal yet a surprise 

For some, me included, it will be quite a surprise that the issue of Hamilton's future with Mercedes is still unresolved. After all, Mercedes still remain the team to beat in F1 despite running at a steady pace in Jerez.

Also, as world champion Hamilton will be considered the favourite to retain the title for a second straight year if this season follows a similar pattern of himself versus Rosberg. If Rosberg had won the championship last year then perhaps the ongoing delay would be expected, with perhaps concerns as to whether the German would get some sort of first priority on new parts etc. But as it is if anyone stands to gain it is Hamilton.

Then there are the options away from Brackley that are few and far between. Ferrari may be considered a possibility with Kimi Raikkonen maybe set for his final year, but given the personality Hamilton has become, he fits far better in at Mercedes than at either of the alternatives given.

Of course there could be a little bit of sensationalist-ness going on, with the final touches to a new deal all that remain to be completed. If it isn't resolved by Melbourne then it could be a story that continues to rumble on for a month or two to come.

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