Saturday, January 19, 2008

Lewis Hamilton signs 5-year contract extension

F1 team McLaren

Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton signed a new five-year contract with McLaren on Friday, extending his total time with the team to 15 years.

Hamilton's original deal was signed in 2006, but McLaren decided on a new contract after the English driver's stellar rookie F1 season in which he finished runner-up to Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen.

McLaren chief executive Ron Dennis said the 23-year-old Hamilton - the first black driver in F1 - had exceeded all expectations and deserved "improved financial terms."

"Today's announcement will take the length of our relationship with Lewis to a total of 15 years, which we believe is among the longest running associations between a sportsman and a team in the history of sport, particularly motorsport," Dennis said.

"Lewis is an exceptional human being, on both a personal and professional level, and will continue to be a credit to this team."

Hamilton said he would be happy to drive for McLaren for the rest of his career.

"Whilst last year was my first year with the team in Formula 1, I have been connected to McLaren and Mercedes-Benz since 1998 and feel that I could easily drive for this team for the whole of my Formula 1 career," he said.

"I am with the right team to compete for race wins and both the drivers' and constructors' world championships in the future."

McLaren was kicked out of the constructors' championship last season as punishment for possessing confidential Ferrari documents.

McLaren F1 chief executive Martin Whitmarsh said the company turned to a new deal for Lewis once the team's 2008 car had been unveiled last week.

"This was certainly not a discussion that was under any particular timeframe as our previous contract with Lewis was ongoing," Whitmarsh said. "Since Heikki (Kovalainen) joined the team in December, it has become more apparent how well he and Lewis will work together to become a competitive force for the team."

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