Lewis Hamilton's long-running contract saga could be concluded before next week's British Grand Prix.
Hamilton, 33, is in the final year of his Mercedes deal, but after months of negotiations the Briton's extension – which will rubber-stamp his future with Mercedes for at least another two seasons – is on the brink of being announced.
In what could be his last contract in Formula One, Hamilton is poised to earn £40 million-a-year (NZ$77m) to cement his status as the United Kingdom's biggest sporting earner.
It is understood Mercedes do not have a formal timeline in place to announce Hamilton's new deal. But team boss Toto Wolff hinted after the French Grand Prix – a race which was attended by Mercedes chairman Dr Dieter Zetsche – that a conclusion may finally be on the horizon.
"We don't want to drag it out much longer," Wolff said. "I expect it to be done very, very soon." The Austrian cryptically added: "Maybe it is about choosing the right moment." Mercedes wanted Hamilton's future to be resolved before March's opening race in Australia, but they will head towards the midway stage of the season with two vacant seats for 2019.
Hamilton, however, is seemingly certain to stay, and it is likely he will be partnered by Valtteri Bottas for a third year with Mercedes content that the inoffensive Finn is doing enough to retain his seat. Bottas is fourth in the standings, 53 points adrift of Hamilton.
Daniel Ricciardo, a two-time winner this season, is out of contract with Red Bull, but Mercedes do not appear interested in making a move for the Australian.
Hamilton, meanwhile, is back in charge of the championship after his impressive victory on Sunday. The Englishman led all but one lap at the Paul Ricard Circuit to move 14 points clear of Sebastian Vettel, who finished only fifth after his collision with Bottas.
The championship pendulum has swung back and forth between Mercedes and Ferrari, but it is Hamilton who now holds the momentum with four races to come in five weeks.
"It can swing so quickly," Wolff added. "I don't expect this result will change much. That is going to be the story of the season."