Lewis Hamilton has ended speculation about his F1 future by signing a new two-year contract with Mercedes ahead of the team's home German Grand Prix this weekend.
The four-time world champion has agreed a deal until the end of 2020, which also marks the expiry of the sport's Concorde Agreement.
"This contract extension has basically been a formality since Toto (Wolff) and I sat down during the winter, so it's good to put pen to paper, announce it and then get on with business as usual," Hamilton said in a statement Thursday.
"I have been part of the Mercedes racing family for 20 years and I have never been happier inside a team than I am right now,” the British driver added.
"We are on the same wavelength both on and off track – and I am looking forward to winning more in the future and shining even more light on the three-pointed star. I'm very confident that Mercedes is the right place to be over the coming years."
I have been in the Mercedes Family since 1998. I am forever grateful for their continued support, love and protection over these years. I’m incredibly proud of what we have achieved together and even more excited for the future! @MercedesAMGF1 #grateful #letsgo #announcelewis pic.twitter.com/sXo0UnKeIs— Lewis Hamilton (@LewisHamilton) July 19, 2018
Hamilton moved to the Northamptonshire-based team after six seasons at Mercedes-powered McLaren, where he won his first title in 2008. He has since added another three championships as the Silver Arrows have dominated F1 in the turbo hybrid engine era.
The 33-year-old is in a tight battle this season with Sebastian Vettel, and trails his fellow quadruple champion by eight points ahead of Sunday's race at Hockenheim.
"Although we have enjoyed so much success together since 2013, Mercedes is hungrier than ever – from Dr (Dieter) Zetsche and the board members at the top of Daimler, through Toto and the team management, to every single person I meet in the corridors of Brixworth and Brackley," Hamilton said.
"The competitive passion that burns bright inside me is shared by every single member of this group – always chasing the next improvement and digging even deeper to make sure we come out on top. I can't wait to see what we can achieve together in the next two and a half seasons."
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff said Hamilton's deal was finalised this week, and he was delighted to have retained “one of the all-time greats”.
"We have been aligned with Lewis ever since we first sat down to discuss the details of this contract after last season, but there has understandably been a lot of interest and speculation around the whole process, so it's good to put all of that to rest and get this thing announced," Wolff said.
Hamilton has had a formidable record since joining @MercedesAMGF1 in 2013— Formula 1 (@F1) July 19, 2018
3⃣ World Championships
2⃣ More years!#F1 @LewisHamilton pic.twitter.com/ZAXashztlo
Hamilton can potentially match Michael Schumacher's record seven world titles by the end of his Mercedes contract, and he is 26 race victories behind the German's all-time landmark.
“There is not much about Lewis as a Formula One driver that hasn't been said already – he is one of the all-time greats and his track record speaks for itself," Wolff said.
“But what I enjoy most about working with him is getting to know the man inside the racing helmet: his relentless drive for self-improvement, his emotional intelligence as a team member, and his loyalty to those around him."
Lewis Hamilton just can't stop chipping away at those records can he?— Channel 4 F1® (@C4F1) July 18, 2018
A win this weekend will see him equal Michael Schumacher's record of four wins in Germany
It would also be his 44th victory with car number 44 #C4F1 #GermanGP pic.twitter.com/5bnhlZEkoc
The day after Hamilton signed, in a deal worth up to £40 million a year according to reports, his team-mate Valtteri Bottas was also given a new contract for next season, with an option for 2020.
Mercedes' move means Daniel Ricciardo is expected to stay at Red Bull.
"Valtteri's performances have been excellent this season and, if not for our mistakes and his misfortune, he could be leading the drivers' championship at the moment," Wolff said Friday.
"When we took the decision in favour of Valtteri for 2019, it wasn't just about his undoubted speed and work ethic, but also a question of character. His relationship with the team, including Lewis, is open and trusting, without any politics at all. Those are the ingredients you need when you're fighting strong rivals in both championships."