'Lawyers are working': Mercedes drop Lewis Hamilton contract 'curveball'
Seven-time Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton is effectively unemployed after his contract with Mercedes was allowed to run past tis expiry date.
Hamilton said at the back end of 2020 that he hoped to sign a new agreement before Christmas, however, that has failed to materialise.
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The Brit clinched his seventh F1 world title in 2020 with three races to spare, but decided to postpone talks with Mercedes until the championship was settled.
His positive test for COVID-19 delayed talks, with Mercedes eventually forced to shelve discussions after making only "baby steps".
Hamilton has given every indication that his intention is to re-sign with Mercedes on a deal likely to be worth approximately £40 million ($AUD 71 million) a year.
However, Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has revealed that discussions have stalled, with lawyers brought in to assist matters because he and Hamilton "both argue over Zoom".
“The lawyers are working hard. We don’t make life easy for them, of course, when we both argue over Zoom and keep sending curveballs to the lawyers,” he said.
“But he’s in America now and I’m here in Austria. At some point we will finalise it. It’s how it is with negotiations.
“You always come from different corners, but that’s quite normal.
“We have a really solid basis in our relationship. We have celebrated great successes together and want to continue doing so in the future.
“But sometimes you have to talk things out in detail, and that took or still takes us some time. But before Bahrain at the latest, you have to sign something at some point.”
Hamilton's contract demands - which likely include salary, bonuses, image rights, sponsorship and media days - are understood to be the main sticking point in discussions.
Some outlets have reported that Hamilton may want a share of the team's prize money and to be given a limited edition Mercedes One hypercar - claims denied by the team.
Mercedes team boss recovering from Covid
Wolff is only recently out of quarantine in his native Austria after revealing that he'd tested positive for Covid-19.
The 49-year-old said during an interview on Austrian television that he had no symptoms.
"We had planned to be here for a few days and out of nowhere I got a positive corona test," Wolff said.
"But everything's fine...it could have gone badly, but we're out of quarantine."
Five Formula One drivers, including Hamilton, have had the new coronavirus.
So too have Aston Martin team owner Lawrence Stroll and Williams principal Simon Roberts.
Wolff owns one third of the Mercedes team as an equal partner with petrochemicals form Ineos and parent company Daimler AG.
The Austrian's current focus is on agreeing the new deal with Hamilton, with the new season starting at Bahrain's Sakhir circuit on March 28.
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