Lewis Hamilton’s long awaited Mercedes contract extension will be announced next weekend at the French Grand Prix, according to latest reports.
It had originally been thought that the deal was a mere formality and would be in place before the first race of the season in March.
But a rough start to the season which has seen the team lose its former dominance at the top of the sport put things on hold. With Hamilton and the team focussed on rebuilding their lost advantage, there was little time for contract talks.
However the delay has led to speculation that Hamilton might decide to walk away from F1 at the end of the year.
Red Bull boss Christian Horner suggested that the sticking point was the high sum of money being asked by Hamilton. Other suggestions are that Hamilton only wants a two-year renewal, leaving him free to walk away in 2020 when the current Concorde Agreement expires.
“I think beyond 2020 there’s every likelihood he may well be releasing his first album which he’s been working on,” former F1 driver David Coulthard told BBC Radio recently.
But now Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport says the contract might finally be done and ready to announce to the public
“It’s all about common ground,” Mercedes team chairman Niki Lauda said.
“The lawyers are sending the documents back and forth. It takes a lot of time. But we are in no hurry.
“If you know that you want to marry, the wedding date does not matter,” he added.
The German publication says that the official announcement will be made next week at the Circuit Paul Ricard, which is hosting the first French F1 race in a decade.
Hamilton’s team mate Valtteri Bottas is also out of contract at the end of the current season.
However it’s thought that if Hamilton re-signs, then Mercedes will opt for stability and quickly pick up the Finn for a third season with the Silver Arrows.
That would shut the door on a possible move to Brackley for Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo. Ricciardo had recently been linked with a move to join Hamilton at Mercedes when his own contract finishes at the end of 2018.
But a strong run of races including two wins so far this season could mean Ricciardo opts to stay with Red Bull after all.