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MONACO (AP) — Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton joked that he earned his "10 percent" commission from himself after finally signing a new and lucrative three-year contract with Mercedes that he negotiated on his own.
The deal was announced Wednesday ahead of this weekend's Monaco Grand Prix, putting an end to growing rumors that the two-time F1 champion from Britain might join Ferrari next season to form a formidable duo with four-time champion Sebastian Vettel.
Speaking about his contract, Hamilton said it was never in doubt, even though he had said in January and again in March that the new contract was imminent, only for the negotiations to drag on and the suspense to grow.
"I took my time. Some weeks I thought about it, some weeks I didn't," said Hamilton, who represents himself since splitting with his advisers after last season. "It was also the first time I'd ever done it so there was a lot to learn, there was a lot of studying to do, to really understand everything. It was great. I earned my 10 percent."
Although neither Mercedes nor Hamilton revealed the financial aspects of the deal, it is estimated to be worth 90 million pounds ($140 million), including bonuses.
"I said to Mercedes from the get-go that I wasn't planning to speak to anyone and I believe that they did the same," said Hamilton, who has won three of five races this season and leads teammate Nico Rosberg by 20 points. "So it was a very easy decision to make and it's also great that the team wanted to continue working with me."
Hamilton will be approaching his 34th birthday when his new deal ends, but does not intend to retire.
"I definitely see (myself) continuing past that," Hamilton said.
Since leaving McLaren in 2013, Hamilton has competed in 43 races, winning 15 and securing a further 11 podium finishes to replace Vettel as the sport's No. 1 driver.
"I really enjoy the challenge of racing Lewis, I always have, because he is an awesome driver," Rosberg said, adding that he never expected his teammate to leave. "There is no better place to be than at Mercedes. This is the best team in F1, and probably will be for many years."
Rosberg, who is German, clashed at times with Hamilton last season — notably at the Monaco GP and at the Belgian GP — as a friendship nurtured when they were racing go-karts against each other as teenagers turned sour. Relations have since eased, but Rosberg expects complications could still arise.
"It's always going to be complicated, and both of us want to win," Rosberg said. "There's ups and downs, and there's always going to be another down. At the moment it's OK."
Last year, Hamilton won 11 races as he claimed a second world title. His consistency has seen him reach the podium in 21 of the past 24 races since the beginning of last season, with 14 wins, five second-place finishes and two third places. With 36 career race wins, and given Mercedes' superior speed, he should overtake Vettel's 40 wins this year.
"Continuity is one of the key factors for delivering success in Formula One and we now have that in place," Mercedes head of Motorsport Toto Wolff said. "Lewis enjoyed an historic world championship season with Mercedes-Benz last year and it was a priority for this season to renew his contract for the next term."
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