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Mercedes boss Toto Wolff joked he will have to sell the team’s factory in order to fund Lewis Hamilton’s next contract.
Hamilton made history at Sunday’s Portuguese Grand Prix with a record-breaking 92nd win of his career to move one clear of Michael Schumacher in the all-time standings.
The Englishman, 35, is out of contract with Mercedes in two months, and claimed in the build-up to Sunday’s race that terms over an extension have yet to be formally discussed.
Hamilton is paid in the region of £40million per year by Mercedes, but whether the German car manufacturer will be able to improve on those lofty figures during the unsteady financial climate is uncertain.
“We will have to sell plenty of inventory and sell the lease back of the buildings, just to come up with the money,” said team principal Wolff, who has overseen Hamilton’s remarkable run of success.
“Who would have thought that when we embarked on this project together in 2013, Lewis would get to 92 wins? It is almost surreal.
“It is credit to his absolute passion, energy, and everything that he puts into the sport. His talent and ability just stand out.
“What I have seen with Lewis this year is that he ramps up his weekends. He was sitting comfortably during the beginning of the race, and then he just ramped it up and had unbelievable pace.”
Hamilton has won five of his six world championships and 71 of his 92 victories with Mercedes. His victory in the Algarve took him 77 points clear in his bid for a seventh title, and with just five rounds remaining of this year’s coronavirus-disturbed schedule there is every chance the Briton will close out the championship at the Turkish Grand Prix in Istanbul on November 15.
Max Verstappen, a dozen years the British driver’s junior, is the heir apparent to the Hamilton’s throne.
The 23-year-old Dutchman is the only man who can keep pace with the Mercedes cars this season as he continues to outperform his Red Bull machinery. Here, he finished third, one of only four drivers to take the chequered flag on the same lap as Hamilton.
“Lewis said he keeps pushing because he wants to set a high record,” said Verstappen, a nine-time winner. “So I am going to have to work hard to get there.
“He has 92 victories and he will not stop there because he will get to well over 100. It is an incredible achievement and it is pushing me to drive until I am 40.”
Three-time world champion Sir Jackie Stewart also moved to praise Hamilton’s new record.
The 81-year-old, who has not always seen eye-to-eye with Hamilton, told the PA news agency: “I congratulate Lewis on achieving the remarkable success in surpassing Michael’s record.
“Lewis has had a hugely impressive career, from his karting days to his association with Ron Dennis at McLaren and then of course the wonderful Mercedes-Benz. I take my hat off to him for his considerable achievements and I wish him well for his continuing career.”