Mar.8 (GMM/Inautonews.com) As he touched down in Australia to begin his title defence, Lewis Hamilton admitted he is close to agreeing a deal to stay at Mercedes beyond 2015.

It is bad news for his rivals, as the Briton apparently hit back at rumours that while his new Mercedes is fast, it may be difficult to set up and drive.

But Hamilton told British newspapers that his pre-season has actually been “pretty awesome. Throughout, it’s felt really good”.

Also good, he says, are negotiations he has conducted without the assistance of a personal manager over a new contract for 2016 and beyond.

He said reports he is demanding a staggering $1.5 million per week are “rubbish”, but hinted that his new deal might make him clearly the best paid driver in F1.

“It’s not about status and being the best paid because you’re world champion,” said the 30-year-old. “It’s just a natural thing.

“It’s gradual progressions along with the team. As the team progress, I want to as well. My target, like every driver is to work towards being the best,” Hamilton added.

The talks have, however, been protracted and repeatedly delayed, but Hamilton suggests the end may now be near.

“Hopefully we’re in the final stages,” he said. “I don’t really know what the timeline is but we’re very much in the last stages of it.”