APRIL 27, 2015

Mercedes denies Hamilton has signed 2016 deal yet

Mercedes has denied reports suggesting Lewis Hamilton has finally signed his long-awaited contract extension.

Germany's Sport Bild said the reigning world champion and 2015 championship leader has now signed up until 2018, with an option to stay for a further two years until 2020.

If he does stay the full five years, the publication estimated the 30-year-old Briton will earn in excess of EUR 175 million.

Team chairman Niki Lauda, however, would not confirm the news.

"I cannot comment on that," he said. "Until nothing is official, I can't say anything. I have to play by the rules."

A Mercedes spokesman also issued a denial, saying the report is "not right".

But Hamilton insisted a deal, although still "not signed", is "about to take place".

"I want to have it all done by the next race in Barcelona," he is quoted by Bild am Sonntag newspaper.

He played down the persistent rumours about a switch to Ferrari.

"I can hardly imagine driving a car other than a Mercedes," said Hamilton. "You should never say never, and I never have done that in my whole life, but I would be very happy to drive for Mercedes until the end of my career."

To Sport Bild, he continued: "The relationship that I have with Mercedes is like a marriage. And now you're asking me whether I actually prefer the brunette.

"My heart is with Mercedes," Hamilton added.