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Hamilton commits to McLaren until 2012 18 Jan 2008

McLaren sign Lewis Hamilton until the end of 2012 season. (L-R): Martin Whitmarsh (GBR) CEO McLaren, Ron Dennis (GBR) McLaren Team Prinicpal and Lewis Hamilton (GBR). Hamilton Extends McLaren Contract, Woking, England, 18 January 2008. © McLaren (L to R): Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren with father Anthony. McLaren Mercedes MP4-23 Launch, Stuttgart, Germany, 7 January 2008. World © Sutton Lewis Hamilton tests the McLaren Mercedes MP4-23 for the first time. McLaren MP4-23. First Test, Jerez, Spain, 10 January 2008. © McLaren. FIA Formula One World Championship - Lewis Hamilton, McLaren FIA Gala Awards Ceremony, Monte Carlo, Monaco, 7 December 2007. © FIA

McLaren have announced a five-year extension to their contract with star driver Lewis Hamilton. The new agreement, which starts for 2008, will run up to and including the 2012 season.

The announcement takes the length of McLaren’s relationship with Hamilton to a total of 15 years, believed to be among the longest running associations between a sportsman and a team in motorsport history.

"It’s fantastic for me that Vodafone McLaren Mercedes has extended my contract until 2012,” said Hamilton, runner-up in the 2007 drivers’ championship. “Whilst last year was my first year with the team in Formula One, I have been connected to McLaren and Mercedes-Benz since 1998 and feel that I could easily drive for this team for the whole of my Formula One career.”

Hamilton narrowly missed out on last year’s title after an amazing rookie season, which saw him take four Grand Prix victories. And while his new deal is almost certain to make him one of Formula One racing’s best paid drivers, the 23-year-old Briton insisted he is firmly focused on more success in the seasons ahead.

“I am with the right team to compete for race wins and both the drivers’ and constructors’ world championships in the future,” he added. “We will have a lot of challenges ahead, but I am 100 percent positive I am with the people to take them on.”

Announcing Hamilton’s new contract, McLaren team principal Ron Dennis said his driver had more than earned a pay rise: “Given Lewis’s performances over the course of the 2007 season, it is clear that improved financial terms were fully deserved and this formed part of the friendly negotiations with Lewis’s manager Anthony Hamilton.”

Following the departure of Fernando Alonso at the end of last season, Hamilton will race alongside former Renault racer Heikki Kovalainen in 2008. Both team and driver are confident it will prove to be a fruitful partnership.

“I am enjoying working closely with Heikki, Pedro (de la Rosa), Gary (Paffett) and the team as we push hard with the development of the MP4-23,” said Hamilton. “We have 57 days to go until the lights go out on the grid at Albert Park and we are motivated to make the most of this time and arrive in Melbourne with a competitive car."

McLaren’s Formula One CEO Martin Whitmarsh added: “Since Heikki joined the team in December, it has become more apparent how well he and Lewis will work together to become a competitive force for the team. We feel confident we have the prospect of another exciting season ahead."