Sources told DPA Mercedes would not be extending Schumacher’s contract, although it is unclear whether the German will go back into retirement or seek a new team. British newspapers said an announcement could come later on Friday after the Mercedes board had signed a new commercial agreement binding the team to the sport.
The Telegraph said the three-year deal could be worth as huge as $100 million. Both teams were expected to hold news conferences later in the day. The decision by Hamilton to leave McLaren will be a major blow to the British team, which had offered their driver a new deal.
Hamilton had been with the team since he was 13 years old and won the world championship in 2008. The 27-year-old has reportedly been told by Mercedes he will be the number one driver, partnering the German Nico Rosberg.
A possible move by Schumacher to another team “is “not an issue today,” his manager Sabine Kehm told DPA. Schumacher returned to Formula One in 2010 after a three-year absence, but has registered only a single podium place with Mercedes since then.
On Thursday, Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn told the BBC that Schumacher had “been a huge asset to the team, he’s really taken us forward.” He added: “I do think Michael contributes an awful lot, so I think the decision for Michael to stay or not continue is a difficult one.
“Obviously he’s very involved in that decision, and discussions are ongoing at the moment.”