New Formula 1 CEO Stefano Domenicali has said that the delay in Mercedes signing a contract extension with Lewis Hamilton is not as simple as being just a dispute over money.
With testing and the first race of the season set for next month, Hamilton remains out of contract despite clinching his record-equalling seventh world championship title at the end of 2020.
Rumours persist that Mercedes' parent company Daimler is unhappy with Hamilton's reported £40 million pay demands and are threatening to look for cheaper options such as Williams driver George Russell, who stood in for Hamilton at Sakhir.
But Domenicali, who took over as boss of the sport from Chase Carey at the start of the year, told journalists that the negotiations were more complex than just agreeing a new pay grade.
“I think that they are discussing a lot of points. I don’t think that is only a point related to his salary or whatever you call it," he said on a video conference call this week.
"It’s really more related to what they have in mind to share together in the future, I think that’s the reason why," he suggested. "He has to take an important decision for his life.
"[F1] is his life, it will maybe be his life in the future, or he may be interested in other things," he added. "We can see he has a lot of interests and is so good at being involved without losing focus."
Domenicali himself made no secret of his desire to see Hamilton back on the grid in 2021 bidding to break Michael Schumacher's all-time record of world championship wins.
"I want to see him still very involved in F1," he stated. "It would be really good to see as soon as we have the announcement Lewis with the energy that he has been always giving to F1, and I’m sure that will be."
“He is an incredible driver,” he said. “He’s an incredible man. He’s an incredible athlete. And he’s given to F1 a different dimension that is over the sport, I would say.
"Lewis is a massive ambassador for F!, who is really very important for F1 because he is the one who is embracing other values into the discussion.
“I really hope that we can have this announcement soon because what he is going to fight for this year is something that, for the sporting perspective, is incredible.
"I think that it would be great to see him fighting for something that no one would have thought possible to achieve after Michael leaving.
"[But] I can imagine the pressure and the dynamic of how he wants to reach this new record, because that would be an incredible story to tell."
Domenicali was confident that Hamilton and Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff would manage to come to an agreement in time. Wolff himself has predicted a deal would be agreed "soon".
“I’m not in Lewis’s head and not even in Toto’s position,” Domenicali acknowledged. "Maybe they are not in a rush because they have already decided it’s all okay - we never know."