'Mercedes offer Hamilton £60m'
McLaren driver continues to be linked with a shock move as a replacement for either Michael Schumacher or Nico Rosberg
Last Updated: 06/09/12 11:49am
Despite denials from Lewis Hamilton's management team that the McLaren driver is close to joining Mercedes, fresh reports claim the former World Champion will be offered a £60m package to replace either Michael Schumacher or Nico Rosberg.
With just three months of the season remaining, Hamilton is still yet to extend his deal with McLaren which expires at the end of the year. Speculation surrounding his future went into overdrive on Wednesday after it was claimed that an agreement between Hamilton and Mercedes was 'imminent'.
Hamilton's management group, XIX Entertainment, have rejected those rumours, but sections of the British media remain adamant that Hamilton could stun F1 by leaving McLaren, the team he has driven for throughout his motor-racing career, for Mercedes.
'Lewis Hamilton could leave McLaren and join Mercedes in a deal that would see him earn £60million over three years,' reports The Daily Mail.
'The German team are so keen to sign the 27-year-old for the next campaign they are prepared to hand him a deal which would eclipse Michael Schumacher's £16.5m-a-season package.
'Sportsmail understands the move is not dependent on Schumacher retiring for the second time at the end of this world championship, meaning the Briton could even replace his former karting team-mate Nico Rosberg.'
The Daily Telegraph is also certain that, despite its superficial unlikelihood, the possibility of Hamilton switching to Mercedes is genuine.
According to the newspaper, 'Hamilton gets on well with Mercedes-Benz's head of motorsport Norbert Haug and discussions have taken place'.
And The Guardian has poured more fuel on to the fire by reporting:
'There are problems between Hamilton and McLaren. The driver admitted last week that he was not close to signing a new contract and the friction between the two parties came to a head just before the Belgian Grand Prix when he tweeted confidential data revealing the car's setup details.'
Speaking about the situation to Sky Sports News, Sky Sports F1's Ted Kravitz said that while Hamilton and his management team were likely using the spectre of a Mercedes switch to improve their bargaining hand in discussions with McLaren, the Woking team still had to be wary about losing the 2008 World Champion to a rival given the dearth of suitable replacements of similar proven calibre available for next season.
Nonetheless Ted added that he expected both parties to eventually agree on a renewal.
"McLaren have to tread quite a fine line because on the face of it there isn't really anyone else apart from Lewis Hamilton who can win multiple grands prix and World Championships out there who McLaren can just pop into their driver line-up alongside Jenson Button," Ted said.
"Jenson Button has of course proved that he can win races, as he did three days ago in Belgium, but he's not really had the staying power this season to win multiple races and challenge for the championship.
"So that's a problem for McLaren. They have to keep Lewis Hamilton because he's shown them that he's the best chance of winning a championship. So it's very finely balanced on both sides.
"I think we'll probably see this month, October maybe, as to whether Lewis Hamilton stays at McLaren which is I think is probably the most likely outcome."
Nonetheless, it would be seen as something of a bombshell if Hamilton were to depart McLaren for a team which has won just once since its return to the sport as a fully-fledged member three years ago.
A spokesman for Mercedes said on Wednesday night: "Until we are in a position to confirm our full driver lineup for next season, it is inevitable that there will be speculation around this topic. We would ask for your understanding, however, that we do not comment on speculation."