May 9 (GMM/Inautonews.com) Niki Lauda has admitted there is a “delay” in the finalisation of Lewis Hamilton’s 2016 contract.
The comments come amid rumours in the Barcelona paddock that Hamilton, the on-form championship leader and reigning world champion, is seriously considering a switch to the fabled and resurgent Ferrari team.
“There is no hitch, there is a delay,” Mercedes team chairman Lauda is quoted by Express newspaper, “but I can’t say any more.”
The speculation suggests Hamilton is not just holding out for a big pay-rise, but genuinely keeping his options open should Ferrari emerge as the likely force for 2016 and beyond.
Bernie Ecclestone only added fuel to the fire in Barcelona by saying: “Lewis will be in the right place next season.”
Asked if that might be Ferrari, the F1 supremo answered: “He wouldn’t have a problem with it but I don’t think Sebastian Vettel would like it.”
Even team boss Toto Wolff appeared to admit that a Ferrari switch is still a possibility for Hamilton.
“Lewis is a rock-star driver and every team would like him, but I am ok (with that),” he said.
Contradicting colleague Lauda’s claims, Wolff then added: “There is no delay.
“We have very much agreed the terms and now it (the contract) just needs to be done properly, and it is being done properly.”
When asked about the hold-up, Hamilton said in Barcelona: “You should ask Toto really.
“I think Niki said something about getting it done ahead of the next race in Monaco, so that should be the target.”