LEWIS HAMILTON can finish his Formula One career at Mercedes, according to his boss Toto Wolff.
Hamilton, who still has 18-months left to run on his current deal – worth around £30million a year – has been the subject of speculation about his future.
The 32-year-old apparently offered his resignation at last year’s Spanish GP when he crashed with rival team-mate Nico Rosberg.
Keep up to date with ALL the latest F1 news, gossip and rumours.
He was also set to be hauled over the coals for ignoring team orders in the Abu Dhabi GP in November with Wolff insisting he would no accept “anarchy” in the team.
However, following Rosberg’s shock decision to retire from F1, Wolff hopes Hamilton will now stay with the Brackley-based team for the rest of his racing career.
He said: “If you would have asked me the same question one year ago, I would not have been very optimistic, but now it is different.
“I have the feeling that it can’t be much better in a different place. For him and for us.
“This is very strong now, and I am not speaking only about on-track performance because there are going to be difficult moments, but I am speaking about the relationship.
“After five years, this relationship has become so strong in a way that it wasn’t last season.
“For Lewis it will be important to see whether we are competitive or not, but at the moment there is such a solid basis that I can imagine it going on forever.”
Hamilton is in his fifth season with Mercedes and during that time he has won 34 races and two drivers’ championships.
However, it has not all been plain sailing, as he frequently clashed with Rosberg – most notably in the 2014 Belgian GP and in Spain.
However, now the German has left the team and been replaced by Valtteri Bottas, Wolff says Hamilton has become a different person.
He added: “I have known Lewis now since 2013 and he has developed every year. As a racing driver he is almost faultless.
“Definitely the biggest positive development I have seen between 2013 and now happened over the winter and after Nico left the team.
“Drivers are sometimes viewed within teams as contractors and they will always look after their own agenda rather than the team’s interest.
“But Lewis is now in his fifth year with us and that has changed. He has become a part of the team.
“I would not use the world team player because that goes against the DNA of a racing driver, but I think he has realised, acknowledged and respects the whole effort that is happening in the team.
“Somehow it has become natural. He towards the team, and the team towards him. We have built a trustful relationship.”
While Hamilton is still under contract, Bottas was only offered a one-year deal by Mercedes.
And while Wolff openly admits he would not rule out a move for Sebastian Vettel or one of the Red Bull duo, Max Verstappen or Daniel Ricciardo, he says Bottas could cement his place in the team, providing he keeps on improving.
He said: “Taking Sebastian out of the equation at this stage would be silly, but equally it is not on the table right now.
“I don’t see a reason why Sebastian should leave a team that probably have an equal package with us at the moment.
“He would not be the only one to look at. We have our young drivers that are developing well and I like both of the Red Bull drivers.
“When the time comes to assess I think there could be up to ten drivers we would look at more closely.
“But if the season were to continue like it was now, with Valtteri’s performance ramping up all the time and him being an important and well-performing part of the team, I don’t see a reason for change.”
Hamilton might no longer be the Formula One world champion but he is still the No1 according to the fans.
The Brit, who lost his world crown to German rival Rosberg last season, has come out top in F1’s global fan survey.
Over 215,000 people took part in the survey that found Hamilton’s popularity had DOUBLED since 2015 and that he now commands the same level of fans support as Michael Schumacher did during his pomp.
Hamilton, who was down in fourth place on the survey’s results in 2015, now commands an astonishing lead over Fernando Alonso, Kimi Raikkonen and Vettel.
However, the German’s Ferrari team is ranked as the most popular team in the world, with over twice as many fans as that of second-placed Mercedes.
Meanwhile, Jules Bianchi’s family have released a heart-breaking statement on the eve of race where he had his standout performance.
Bianchi was killed following a high-speed collision with a crane at the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix.
The Frenchman, who lived in Nice, just 20 miles from the Monte Carlo track, suffered fatal head injuries and died nine months after the accident in hospital.
Bianchi achieved the herculean task of finishing ninth in his Marussia at the 2014 Monaco GP and was destined to drive for one of F1’s top-teams.
A statement said: “Jules left us all too early without being able to achieve his destiny in Formula One.
“The accident resulted from a combination of adverse circumstances which came together to cause the tragic death of a very skilful young driver, our son Jules.
“As a family, we feel it is our duty to keep his memory alive through the Association Jules Bianchi.
“For us, this is the most beautiful mission, the most meaningful proof of our love for Jules and his love for motorsport. Jules’ dream was to drive; our dream today is never to forget him.”
The statement added that the family have welcomed safety improvements set up following their son’s tragic accident.
And they hope to enable his memory to live on through the Association Jules Bianchi, which has been set up in Monaco and is dedicated to helping other young motorsports drivers fulfil their potential.
FA Cup final DAY
LIVE – Arsenal 2 Chelsea 1: Aaron Ramsey restores Gunners lead within minutes of Diego Costa equaliser
WEN WILL YOU DECIDE?
Arsene Wenger to decide on Arsenal future on Tuesday after third FA Cup win in four years
DAVID DE STAYING?
David de Gea set to stay at Manchester United after club qualify for Champions League
Arsenal 2 Chelsea 1: Aaron Ramsey seals third FA Cup in four years as Arsene Wenger wrecks Blues’ double dream
Five things we learnt
Per Mertesacker had the game of his life, Mesut Ozil stepped up on the big occasion and Arsene Wenger made history
Chelsea forget to wear black armbands to pay respect for 22 victims of Manchester terror attack
Chelsea complain Aaron Ramsey was ‘clearly offside’ on Twitter in lead up to Alexis Sanchez’s controversial opening goal in FA Cup final
ED TO PREM
Man City plot move for Benfica goalkeeper Ederson with world record £35m swoop for stopper
When is Kell Brook vs Errol Spence Jr, what TV channel is the fight on and where will it take place?
When is the FA Cup final between Arsenal and Chelsea, where can I watch it and how can I get tickets?
over to you, ed
Jose Mourinho tells Ed Woodward: Now it’s up to you to deliver the players I want at Manchester United
‘I’m not interested’
Former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho skips FA Cup final to watch F1 unfold in Monaco
What time does coverage of the FA Cup final begin on BBC and BT Sport? Full Arsenal vs Chelsea schedule
CUP FINAL LIVE
How to watch FA Cup final between Chelsea and Arsenal FREE on TV and other ways you can view it
Man City chief Pep Guardiola at war with old club for lining up THREE of Barcelona’s best wonderkids
white hart lem
Tottenham step up their efforts to sign in-demand Monaco winger Thomas Lemar this summer
What TV channel is Arsenal vs Chelsea on, what time is it on and what is the latest team news?
Tyson Fury looks to be enjoying sunny weather in summer hat and shorts as heavyweight prepares to return to ring
outstaying his welcome?
Arsenal to give boss Arsene Wenger new two-year deal even if they lose FA Cup final today
MOUR FOR MOUR
Manchester United ‘open talks’ with Paris Saint-Germain to sign attacking midfielder Lucas Moura