LONDON: Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton will chase a record eighth title with Mercedes this season after signing a new deal, the team said in a statement on Monday that ended any uncertainty about his immediate future.
The 36-year-old Briton had been out of contract since the end of last year but the negotiations had turned into something of a saga, with questions raised about why it was taking so long.
Mercedes said the new agreement, which referred only to 2021, included a joint commitment for greater diversity and inclusion.
Hamilton, the sport's only Black driver and its most successful racer, has used his platform and profile increasingly to push for equal opportunities and speak out against racial injustice.
"I am excited to be heading into my ninth season with my Mercedes team mates," he said.
"Our team has achieved incredible things together and we look forward to building on our success even further, while continuously looking to improve, both on and off the track.
"I'm equally determined to continue the journey we started to make motorsport more diverse for future generations and I am grateful that Mercedes has been extremely supportive of my call to address this issue."
Hamilton, who last year set up a commission to help increase the representation of Black people in British motorsport, said he and Mercedes would be launching a joint foundation dedicated to diversity and inclusion in the sport.
The team's cars are set to continue with a black livery this season, a change made last year from the previous silver.
"Opening the sport to under-represented groups will be important for its development in the future and we're determined to make a positive impact," commented Mercedes' non-executive chairman Markus Schaefer.
Mercedes team boss and co-owner Toto Wolff said it had always been the plan to stay together but the COVID-19 pandemic meant it had taken some time to reach a deal.
"Lewis's competitive record stands alongside the best the sports world has ever seen, and he is a valued ambassador for our brand and our partners," added the Austrian.
"The story of Mercedes and Lewis has written itself into the history books of our sport over the past eight seasons, and we are hungry to compete and to add more chapters to it."
Mercedes have won the last seven drivers' and constructors' world championships, an unprecedented show of dominance in the sport.
Hamilton can now look forward to becoming the first driver to take 100 grand prix wins, with his tally currently on an unprecedented 95.
He won 11 of his 16 races last year, missing one after testing positive for COVID-19 in Bahrain.
The Briton also holds a string of records, including most pole positions (98) and podium finishes (165), and was knighted in Britain's New Year's honours.
The Briton's confirmation by Mercedes completes the starting grid for a season that starts in Bahrain on March 28.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Pritha Sarkar)