Toto Wolff has scoffed at a media report purporting to know the dizzying value of Lewis Hamilton’s next Mercedes contract.
Although the reigning world champion now has no manager, the parties remain locked in protracted talks about a new deal beyond 2015.
London’s Times newspaper said the current discussion is about a new three-year extension worth a staggering $231 million, or $77 million per year.
To be clear, that would be nearly an incredible $1.5 million per week for the 30-year-old Briton, making him easily the highest earner in the history of formula one.
“Sources say Hamilton has decided that, as world champion, he must be the best-paid man on the grid and is anxious to overtake the earnings of Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso,” the report claimed.
German media reports, however, quoted team boss Wolff as utterly rubbishing the claims, saying it is closer to “satire” than reality.
“Such numbers are an absolute illusion,” the Austrian added.
“As Mercedes, we are committed to efficiency, even when it comes to the driver salaries,” Wolff insisted.
Mercedes can probably afford to play hardball with Hamilton, given that although he is a proven title winner and arguably the most marketable driver on the grid, the German team is undoubtedly the most coveted address in pitlane.
“You’re never in a perfect (negotiating) situation,” Wolff said, “but as Lewis wants to be with us, and we want to keep him, what we need to do is find a basis for the two sides to come together.”
Contract talks were said to be at an advanced stage some weeks ago at the Jerez test, “But it just takes time,” Wolff explained.
“We have similar ideas, but it is important to implement them in a contract.”
Turning his attention to Mercedes’ looming title defence, meanwhile, Wolff admitted it will be healthy for the sport if there are more competitive opponents in 2015.
“Ferrari has made a big jump,” he said, “and according to our estimates, they are also now really fast on the straight.
“This pleases us, because it is important for formula one that Ferrari is at the front,” added Wolff.
“Like last year, Williams has built a car with low drag, so the only real question mark we have is Red Bull.” (GMM)