F1 champion Hamilton extends contract with 'incredible' Mercedes to 2023

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Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton has extended his contract with Mercedes until 2023, the team announced on Saturday.

Hamilton, 36, has won six of his seven F1 titles with the outfit since joining them in 2013.

Together they have dominated the sport for the past seven years. Mercedes have won the constructors' championship every season since 2014 with Hamilton winning six of the last seven drivers' titles.

Hamilton will reportedly earn £40 million (55 million dollars) a year under the new deal.

"It is hard to believe it's been nearly nine years working with this incredible team and I'm excited we're going to continue our partnership for two more years," Hamilton said in a statement.

"We've accomplished so much together but we still have a lot to achieve, both on and off the track."

As the only black driver on the F1 grid, the Briton is a prominent advocate against racism and took the knee wearing a Black Lives Matter t-shirt before each race last season.

Hamilton highlighted the backing he had received from Mercedes in making that stand as another reason behind his decision to renew.

"I'm incredibly proud and grateful of how Mercedes has supported me in my drive to improve diversity and equality in our sport.

"They have held themselves accountable and made important strides in creating a more diverse team and inclusive environment."

Hamilton is one championship victory away from overtaking the all-time record he shares with Michael Schumacher but has already overtaken the German with a record 98 Grand Prix wins.

He has won three of this season's eight races so far but is facing his toughest challenge for many seasons as he trails championship leader Max Verstappen by 18 points.

"His achievements in this sport speak for themselves, and with his experience, speed and race-craft, he is at the peak of his powers," Mercedes team principal and chief executive Toto Wolff said.

"We are relishing the battle we have on our hands this year -- and that's why we also wanted to agree this contract early, so we have no distractions from the competition on track.

"I have always said that as long as Lewis still possesses the fire for racing, he can continue as long as he wants."

Next season, Formula 1 will introduce the alterations to cars which were pushed back from this year by the coronavirus pandemic.

They aim to aid drivers to overtake more often.

"As F1 enters a new era in 2022 with wholesale technical regulation changes, Mercedes and Lewis will forge new ground in a collaboration which has spanned his entire F1 career," Mercedes said.

On Sunday, Hamilton will try to stop Verstappen claiming a third consecutive win at the Austrian Grand Prix.

After this weekend's racing, the season takes a break before the British Grand Prix on July 18, the 10th of a 23-race campaign.